Art examining gender, sexuality, and identity through Indigenous lens

Portland peeps, this post’s for you!

Through August 28, 2016, the Center for Contemporary Native Art at the Portland Art Museum will present an exhibition featuring the work of Demian DinéYazhi’ (Diné) and Kali Spitzer (Kaska Dena/Jewish).

Together, these artists will frame themes of gender, sexuality, and identity through the lens of their respective Indigenous cultural perspectives and traditional practices. Their work in the new Center will demonstrate their commitment to survivance, which Anishinaabe scholar Gerald Vizenor defined as Indigenous self-expression in any medium that tells a story about an active Native presence in the world now. Survivance is more than mere survival—it is a way of life that nourishes Indigenous ways of knowing. Spitzer and DinéYazhi’ will create a transdisciplinary and multimedia space that reaffirms their dedication to cultural revitalization through language and social engagement—a contemporary and radical act of survivance.


Demian DinéYazhi’ is a Portland-based transdisciplinary warrior born to the clans Tódích’íí’nii (Bitter Water) and Naasht’ézhí Tábąąhá (Water’s Edge) of the Diné (Navajo). DinéYazhi’ received his BFA in Intermedia Arts from Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2014, where he received the Thesis Writing Award for his paper “Tribal Memory: Post-Apocalyptic Landscape Representation & Indigenous Survivance” and the Intermedia Department Award for his curatorial/research-based thesis exhibition, Bury My Art at Wounded Knee: Blood & Guts in the Art School Industrial Complex. He is the founder and director of the artist/activist/warrior collective RISE: Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment, which is dedicated to the education and perseverance of Indigenous art and culture.

Kali Spitzer is Kaska Dena from Daylu (Lower Post, British Columbia) on her father’s side and Jewish from Transylvania, Romania, on her mother’s. She is from the Yukon and grew up on the west coast of British Columbia. Having earned her certificate in Professional Photography from the Western Academy of Photography, Spitzer transferred to and is currently studying at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, under the mentorship of Will Wilson. She mainly works with film—35mm, 120 and large-format—and has developed a newfound love for wet plate collodion process using an 8-by-10 camera. Her work includes portraits and figure studies of her people and photographs of ceremonies and cultural practices in her community. Spitzer’s work focuses on cultural revitalization, whether in the medium of photography, ceramics, tanning hides, or hunting. She views all of these practices as art and as part of an exploration of self. Her work has been exhibited and recognized internationally.


Image: Kali Spitzer (Kaska Dena/Jewish; Canadian, b. 1987), Sasha LaPointe II, 2014

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