Joanne Bigfeather - Michael Steirnagle

Joanne Bigfeather: Artist and Curator

Joanna Bigfeather’s passion is steeped in the world of contemporary Native American art and Indigenous Peoples Human Rights. She demonstrates this through her work as a curator, artist, lecturer and activist. Working as the director and curator of the American Indian Community House in New York City, she mounted exhibitions addressing the Native experience ranging in subjects from HIV/AIDS, homelessness, international borders to dispelling images of Native Americans. Relocating to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Bigfeather became the first alumni and woman to direct the venerated Institute of American Arts. As in NYC, she worked to link the IAA to other art institutions for the cross pollination of ideas, programming and broadening of audiences. Throughout her career she has lectured on Native artists and the Native Art Movement whether in the U.S., South Korea, Italy or the Netherlands. During 2002 she was selected to curate an exhibition of Native art entitled Native Views: Influences of Modern Cultures for Artrain USA located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The exhibition traveled by train to small communities throughout the USA for three years. One of the subjects of her own art has been the boarding school experience and the treatment of Native students during the period of the late 1800’s into the 1920’s. Her work executed through installation and ceramics is held in the collections of the Smithsonian Institute, Brooklyn Museum and the Heard Museum. Living now in San Diego, Bigfeather was burned out in the fires of 2008 while she was the director of the Boehm Gallery at Palomar College.

What is your vision of the future of the Visual arts for San Diego?

"I first moved to San Diego in the mid 1970’s, when downtown was just changing through the efforts of forward thinking visionaries. Since then the area has grown and prospered but missing is the presence of indigenous arts. It is my hope the San Diego arts community will tap into the vast Native community of artists whose cultures are living and thriving throughout the County and who continue to create traditional arts and push the boundaries of art making. I would like to see these national and international artists recognized and exhibited in the San Diego landscape."