Fontenelle Forest is proud to present Matika Wilbur’s newest Project 562 collection: Natural Wanderment: Stewardship – Sovereignty – Sacredness, an exhibition of Native American portraits and stories that honors and seeks to protect ancestral ways of life and lands in North America. Project 562 offers a creative relationship with people from 562 Tribal Nations in the United States that builds cultural bridges, abandons stereotypes, and renews and inspires our national legacy.
Matika Wilbur’s Project 562 is an inspiring artistic adventure unfolding the living history of North America’s ancient peoples. Over the last three years and 250,000 miles, Wilbur, one of the nation’s leading photographers, has journeyed tirelessly to hear the stories and imbibe the culture and wisdom of the original peoples of the land. From Alaska to the Southwest, Louisiana to upper Maine, to date she has acquired exquisite portraits and compelling narratives from over 300 tribes. The stunning and unprecedented work of Project 562 has been featured in national and international media, attracted scores of thousands of visitors to galleries and museums in the U.S. and around the world, been awarded leading creativity grants, and drawn invitations from leading universities and institutions. Wilbur’s artistic mission has caused such intense conversation and transformative awareness about the vibrant, multifaceted identity of Native Americans she is brilliantly exploring.
This human-focused artistic undertaking has revealed that at the core of many Native American’s identities and lives in the United States is their indispensable connection to their ancestral lands. Wilbur recently posted in her blog: “Repeatedly in our journey, we have seen that land and associated rights are essential to the exercise of tribal sovereignty and the ability to preserve and promote culture . . . Where there is displacement from a homeland, there has come to be irrepressible yearning and struggle on all fronts for cultural wholeness and identity, as well as for communication and action about such crises.” This has become the rule, not the exception, as Wilbur has encountered in every visit to tribal nations long-standing struggles by activists, seed-keepers, wild rice harvesters, elders, and other culture bearers to maintain and re-establish indigenous rights to natural places and resources. From the Oak Flat’s struggle to maintain access to their sacred prayer place, Miccusookee’s fight for the Everglades, Lummi’s opposition to the coal train, Paiutes in dire battles for water preservation and rights in California, Southwest tribes’ organized protests against fracking and sacred despoliation . . . the list goes on.
Opening on July 7, 2017 at Fontenelle Forest, Wilbur is presenting an extraordinary exhibition of Native Americans devoted to honoring and protecting the sacred and natural world, which is one in the same in their world view. Despite western ideologies and systems that undermine this living truth, there remain the “people of the blue green water”, the “people of the tall pine trees”, the “people of the tide.” Wilbur uses portrait art to express the “ecological being” of sitters, imbuing these images and narratives with the aspiration and force of the original stewards of the land, which is vital to not only the sovereignty and dignity of Native Americans, but also the preservation and majesty of the natural world. As she explains: “With Fontenelle Forest’s generous support, I’m able to share these remarkable portraits and narratives before the end of this total project, as it is crucial that these diverse Native Americans’ values and purposes be known right now. And I’ve featured the land itself, places of breathtaking beauty and wonder that inspire me to keep going in this long and demanding journey I’m on. The show is inspired by the peoples I’ve encountered and how I felt (and wrote in my journal) watching a sunrise above the Bonneville Flats in Utah – ‘Never had the earth been so lovely, nor the sun so bright, as just now.’”