To Bind or To Burn presents recent works by multi-media and performance artist Anna Tsouhlarakis (Navajo, Creek, and Greek). Tsouhlarakis was the 2019-20 Andrew W. Mellon artist in residence at the FAC. During this time in the studio, she explored projects that questioned how to indigenize contemporary art practice. This exhibition combines art works from these explorations with earlier works to show her continued engagement with the connections between Native American Art and Minimalism.
Tsouhlarakis identified artist Sol Lewitt’s project of studies of incomplete cubes as a starting point for her investigation. She was intrigued by Robert Rosenblum’s statement, “Lewitt’s search for the building blocks of form, for the basic alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar of all structures, is one that has a deeply ingrained tradition in the history of modern art…” And she wanted to understand how she could interrupt this “vocabulary” and insert Native art into the conversation. The result was a series of sculptures and videos that incorporate IKEA furniture remnants with other found and made elements to express concepts from her Navajo background.
In Navajo traditions, binding is an action used to teach self-control, respect, and balance within the worlds of human and nature. Infants are wrapped in cradleboards, used by many Native American people, to help ease an infant’s lack of bodily control to create a space of peacefulness. As Navajos grow up, children are taught to keep their hair clean and tied back. This provides clarity of mind and positive intention as one goes through life. Throughout Navajo culture, there are many other ways this act of binding provides a way of being in the world. Translating this technique and Navajo mark making, as a method of decolonization of art, are the foundation of Tsouhlarakis’ current practice.
Accessibility advisory: This exhibition features an installation that you may enter and explore. Please be aware that the width of the path inside the sculpture narrows. Visitors who use wheelchairs or mobility aids should give themselves plenty of room to turn around to exit the installation.
Navajo + Creek + Greek
Anna Tsouhlarakis works in sculpture, installation, video, and performance. She received her BA from Dartmouth College with degrees in Native American Studies and Studio Art. She went on to receive her MFA from Yale University in Sculpture.
Her work has been part of national and international exhibitions at venues such as Rush Arts in New York, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Crystal Bridges Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, the Heard Museum, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Tsouhlarakis has participated in various art residencies including Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Yaddo, and was the Andrew W. Mellon Artist-in-Residence at Colorado College for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Tsouhlarakis lives and works in Colorado.
Top image: Anna Tsouhlarakis, 2/It Goes Like This, 2019, Found wood, IKEA remnants, porcupine quills, deer antlers, sinew, resin, plaster, Courtesy of the artist
Decolonizing During a Pandemic
Wednesday–Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m. by reservation only
Admission includes entrance to all other galleries in the museum.
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In the virtual celebration of the opening of Anna Tsouhlarakis: To Bind or to Burn, that took place live on Friday, Feb. 12, curator of Southwest Art Polly Nordstrand spoke with the artist about her work and her strategies to indigenize contemporary art. The exhibition presents various bodies of work, including the projects Tsouhlarakis created while an artist in residence at the FAC.A Conversation with the Artist