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Indigenous women artists tell their own stories in new exhibit

Fawn Douglas’ life is defined by balance. She is a mother and a student, a business partner and an artist, a Las Vegas local and an enrolled member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. In the new exhibition “Ah’-Wah-Nee,” Douglas and other artists explore the equilibrium they engage with as Native American women.

An art piece by Fawn Douglas entitled, Nuwuvi: Our Bodies, Our Lands, is seen at the Nuwu Art a ...
An art piece by Fawn Douglas entitled, Nuwuvi: Our Bodies, Our Lands, is seen at the Nuwu Art and Activism Studios in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Fawn Douglas, curator for the Ah-wah-nee Exhibition and Symposium at the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, will display her piece at the gallery. (Erik Verduzco / Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Erik_Verduzco

“I felt it was important to let Indigenous people tell their own stories and build dialogue among Native American issues,” says Douglas, noted activist and a student in UNLV’s Master of Fine Arts program, who curated the exhibition for the school’s Donna Beam Gallery. “What better way to do that than through the arts?”

In “Ah’-Wah-Nee” — the Southern Paiute term for “balance” — Douglas says female artists who are members of Indigenous tribes across the Southwest have submitted artworks that address their lived experiences, the legacies of colonialism and current events that affect Indigenous communities. The pieces take the form of stylized photos, beadwork, multimedia pieces and more. One example: A photo by artist Cara Romero depicts a woman underwater, carrying a basket knitted with rope in the style of the Chemehuevi tribe. “It’s a glimpse into the history and the future as Indigenous people reclaim and retain Indigenous ways,” says Douglas. “It shows the beauty of Indigeneity not always seen in other works.” Other artists in the show, several of whom have Nevada ties: Loretta Burden, Noelle Garcia, Jean LaMarr, Melissa Melero Moose, Natani Notah, Rose B. Simpson, Roxanne Swentzell, Shelby Westika. Time to learn their names.

“Ah’-Wah-Nee,” Nov. 1-Dec. 10, UNLV’s Donna Beam Gallery, unlv.edu/calendar An accompanying symposium will take place Nov. 4-5 at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art.

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