Dyani White Hawk and Heid E. Erdrich featured in Kenwood neighborhood

'Value' (Charcoal and beads, stitched canvas and 19th Century Ledger Paper) by Dyani White Hawk
'Value' (Charcoal and beads, stitched canvas and 19th Century Ledger Paper) by Dyani White Hawk

One of the most wonderful little corners in Minneapolis exists on 21st Street and Penn Avenue, just west of Lake of the Isles. While it's possible that you have never passed by the area because it's tucked away in the Kenwood neighborhood, now would be a good time to make a little trek over there to check out Dyani White Hawk's debut solo show at Bockley Gallery and to pick up a copy of Heid E. Erdrich's Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems at Birchbark Books

The artist and poet celebrated their book launch and art opening last week together. Both have connections with All My Relations Gallery, where Erdrich is a former curator and White Hawk is now the arts project manager. Much like All My Relations, both Birchbark Books (owned by Heid Erdrich's sister, novelist Louise Erdrich) and Bockley Gallery boast an impressive list of Native talent in their respective venues. Birchbark is a delightful shop, filled with books by authors that you might not find anywhere else, plus it's a cozy and light-filled store with a very neighborhood-y feel. On the same block is Bockley Gallery, which seems to always have unique artists on display, and such is the case with the current White Hawk show.
Tiospaye (Extended Family) by Dyani White Hawk
Tiospaye (Extended Family) by Dyani White Hawk

White Hawk was the cover artist for Cell Traffic, and there are many similarities between her and Erdrich. Both artists grapple with issues of identity, and draw influences from both Native and contemporary Western styles. White Hawk's abstract paintings incorporate Lakota motifs, and at times use techniques such as quill and bead work. Meanwhile Erdrich, whose poetry is concise, rhythmic, and incorporates the language of science, also acutely uses imagery from nature and reflects on her experience as someone with Anishinaabe and European ancestry.

One of the most remarkable pieces in the White Hawk exhibit is Tiospaye (Extended Family), a three-panel acrylic painting with porcupine-quill work imbedded into it. In the painting are three thick horizontal stripes of red, white, and blue paint, bordered by rows of what look like houses stacked together. Within the stripes are thin lines of quill work, which you have to approach closely to see how detailed they've been woven. The paint is both vivid and smudged around the edges. White Hawk seems to be both embracing two sides of her identity, but also struggling with them.

'Torn' by Dyani White Hawk
'Torn' by Dyani White Hawk

Another interesting piece is Torn, where two identical houses mirror each other, one facing upward and one upside down. White Hawk uses pages from Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America to create the houses. On either side there are clouds and white crosses that could be stars. Like much of her art, White Hawk seems to be working out who she is in the context of her heritage and also the world.

As for Erdrich's book of poems, it is an immense read, full of achingly painful imagery as well as good humor. Erdrich is a master at creating profound and beautiful imagery that reads in a very accessible but also complex way. You can get the book online, of course, but do yourself a favor and stop by the store, and check out Bockley Gallery (open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday) while you're at it. You'll be glad you did. 

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Bockley Gallery

2123 W. 21st St.
Minneapolis, MN 55405



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