Sunday, August 7, 2016

NMAI stages major retrospective for Kay WalkingStick

Where: National Museum of the American Indian

When: through September 18, 2016

True confession: I'd never heard of Kay WalkingStick before I went to this show.  Now, she's one of my favorite artists.  Best known for her diptychs, she had several artistic periods throughout her career, which started in the 1960s and continues to the present.  This exhibit explores them all, starting with her early nudes and ending with her landscapes and paintings of Native places.

I was drawn to the shapes and colors she uses in her early work, especially Hudson Reflections, which I saw repeated in later pieces.  She uses the color red in several works - a red that will not be ignored or overlooked.  It's as if the painting is shouting out, "Look at me!!!  Look at me now!!!"

I also liked her diptychs, which combine abstraction on one side, with realistic landscapes on the other.  It's two views of the same thing; either two completely different paintings put together or, as in the work pictured here, two paintings that form one almost seamless whole.

The only works I really didn't care for were from her Italian period.  She lived there for several years, eventually converting to Catholicism.  Perhaps it's my difficulties with organized religion that biased me against these works, but I have a hard time understanding how someone who could create works depicting such raw female sexuality could also join a church that has not exactly been a champion of women's sexual expression.

Verdict: Overall, a great show, well worth seeing before it heads out of town for a national tour.

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