Tufts University Art Galleries Reflect on Stolen Land and Resilient Communities

In the Aidekman Arts Center, Tufts University Art Galleries present the art with poignant, carefully curated stories by members of the Tufts community. Each exhibit showcases current passions that the art world at Tufts wishes to share with a wider audience.

A colorful mural, located in front of the center doors in the Jackson Gym parking lot, spans with striking blues, greens and reds. the seemingly in motion geometric shapes cause surrounding gray parking lot to blend in periphery.

Artist Erin Genia created the mural. Her focus is on Native American and Indigenous arts and culture. She teaches this subject and creates art with different media to emphasize its importance. The piece is called “Wakpa” which comes from the word used for river in Dakota. Specifically, Genia created the mural as a depiction of the Mystic River, the local body of water near Tufts. genius hopes honor an Aboriginal perspective with the mural: the mosaic of its colors representing, among other things, clay, water and earth, essential resources of Native American daily life. In addition to its effects on indigenous populations, Genia’s work shows how colonialism and land grabs have also significantly altered the river.

the the work is part of “Unsettling the Archive: Exploring Tufts’ Relationships with Land”, an exhibition at the Aidekman Art Center. The exhibition used materials from the Tufts University Permanent Art and Tufts Digital Collections and Archives to present a collection of pieces that aims to deepen the dialogue about the history of the Tufts location.

the Slater Concourse Gallery is an open hallway in front of the centre’s entrance. The following art, the main part of the collection with the mural “wakpa“, starts with archival oil paintings. The pictures in gilt frames highlight early 19th-century Tufts campus scenes. At each table, clumps’ buildings are piling up, showing how the construction of the university altered the lands stolen from the indigenous population.

The exhibition too features maps depicting the lands of Saunkskwastarting in the 1500s and ending in the 1700s. Over the years, English colonizers can be seen invading Indigenous lands; colonialism left a dangerous impact even before Tufts was established in 1852.

The Ithe indigenous lands that Tufts now occupies once belonged to the Massachusett and Wôpanâak peoples. In the from the late 16th to early 17th centuries, the female tribal chief Squaw Sachem of Mistick, also called Saunkskwa of Missitekw, ruled. In one portrait of Saunkskwa, her striking figure stands against a background detailing the area’s distinctive natural features. The piece serves to paint a narrative of the earth, emphasizing the historical figures that marked its modern foundation.

At once to the left of the entrance, glass doors open onto a large gallery with colorful and playful art. Paintings, photographs and suspended sculptures fill the space.

This show is called “Stay with the problem.” the the title comes from a book written in 2016 by Donna Haraway, “Staying With the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene”. Haraway is an ecofeminist; in her book, she argues that society must learn to cultivate a healthier relationship with the world and its living parts. She references Indigenous knowledge in her efforts to find a solution.

Judy Chicago work stands out in the gallery. This features colorful photos with female characters painted in weird colors. The artist collaborated with students from the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts.

Raised Faith Wilding is painted green in one piece. Her the body is suffocated by red smoke; she sits in front of a desolate desert. This comments on the oppressive, often destructive actions of the male artists who dominate the Land Art genre. the smoke, specific colors and vulnerable body emphasize the lighter parts of the genre, and how that perspective is as powerful, perhaps even more so, than the more well-known pieces created primarily by men.

Down the stairs is the final exhibit: “Connecting Threads / Survivor Objects”. The collection features artifacts from the past that tell stories of Armenian communities. relics highlight the rich culture nearly decimated by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Hamid II in the 1890s and the Armenian Genocide of 1915–22.

Tufts University Art Galleries explore engaging and critical stories of other communities and their relationship to our own community here at Tufts. They provide opportunities to use art to expand our perspectives and knowledge in crucial ways.

Anyone can be part of the Tufts art community – just visit the galleries and learn. “Unsettling the Archive: Exploring Tufts’ Relationship with Land” is open until April 24.

Mildred D. Field