A blanket covers a body in a gallery at the Washington State History Museum in downtown Tacoma. At least it looks that way.
The human-shaped form is just an illusion, a work of art in this year’s “In The Spirit” Indigenous art show.
The piece, by Pyramid Lake Paiute (Nevada) artist Charles Bloomfield, stops a visitor in their tracks. Hand prints cover the blanket. It’s titled, “In Remembrance of the Missing and Murdered”.
Lakewood resident Bloomfield has been involved with “In the Spirit” for 13 years, sometimes as a juror, sometimes as an artist.
The show features 37 works by 26 Native artists. Some of the pieces are traditional while others are contemporary, like Bloomfield’s.
The figure under the blanket is both present and missing.
“It has to be soul crushing to have a family member that is missing,” he said Thursday before an opening day reception. “You probably will never get answers because they will never be found … how do you process that?”
Missing and murdered Indigenous women, for years an ignored crisis, are now receiving attention in the news media and government.
Bloomfield’s blanket is covered with hand prints in the style of the Chauvet, France cave paintings that date back 31,000 years. They are based on prints he’s collected from Native women.
“We long to find them, to bring them home to their people, to their land and their ancestors so that they may be put to rest in a respectful and good way,” Bloomfield says in his statement about the piece.
Not for sale
“In the Spirit” features an annual marketplace festival on Aug. 6.
The show inside the museum, on display through Sept. 11, isn’t commercial. That, Bloomfield said, allows the artists to pursue their visions without the need to make art strictly for sale.
“Not all artists want to sell things,” Bloomfield said. “They just might want to produce a piece of art and just show it to the world.”
Some of the work is playful, like the two facing Sasquatch-like figures made from metal by Muckleshoot (Washington) artist Katherine Arquette. She calls it, “Siblings Between Two Rivers”.
Traditional and contemporary
A traditional style cedar raven mask by Tlingit (Alaska) artist James Johnson looks across the gallery at a contemporary mask by Yup’ik (Alaska) artists Jennifer Angaiak Wood.
The masks are emblematic of the show which swings between long held traditional styles and contemporary visions.
A bentwood box by Seneca (New York) artist Linley Logan combines both with its mix of cedar and glass.
The ability to be as cutting edge as any other artist is appealing to Bloomfield and other native artists, he said.
“Because you can experiment,” he said. “You get to try some really different things. Not everything you make gets in. I’ve made things that are more controversial than this that didn’t get in.”
This year’s show, as in past years, was juried by a trio of Native artists. They named Bloomfield’s piece as Best in Show on Thursday evening.
If you go
▪ When: Through Sept. 11.
▪ Where: Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave. Tacoma.
▪ Information/pricing: Check WSHM’s website: washingtonhistory.org/
▪ Marketplace: Saturday, Aug. 6 at WSHM’s plaza, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. washingtonhistory.org/exhibit/in-the-spirit-contemporary-native-arts-2022/
This story was originally published June 18, 2022 5:00 AM.