Dylan Miner: When Water Was Sacred // Trees Were Relatives
October 27, 2018 – March 3, 2019
East Lansing-based artist and activist Dylan Miner will debut new work created for his Michigan Artist Series exhibition at GRAM that will focus on the natural environment of West Michigan and its history. Miner is a Michigan native of Wiisaakodewinini (Métis) descent. In his current work about the history and culture of Anishnaabewaki, the Indigenous Great Lakes region, Miner explores the degradation of regional resources, capitalism and colonialism as a way to shape awareness and create dialogue around these complex, intertwining issues. Miner imagines his artistic practice as creating new forms of contemporary Great Lakes regionalism, by focusing on the natural elements that make Michigan so unique and important.
In When Water Was Sacred // Trees Were Relatives, Miner investigates the important historical and current issues around three primary natural elements: wood, water, and sky, and the traditional knowledge and beliefs around them within Great Lakes Indigenous cultures. For the exhibition, Miner will produce a series of large-scale cyanotype photographs on fabric that portray images of cloudy skies and water surfaces. For Miner, the blue color of the cyanotype process evokes water and sky, and also has symbolic correspondence to Michigan’s history around Indigenous issues of sovereignty. (The cyanotype process was first used in 1842, the year that the Treaty of LaPointe was signed, the last of the eight major treaties ceding land that is now Michigan.) Miner will also create site-specific sculptural elements for the exhibition from old growth timber and other arboreal materials.
The project also includes a series of workshops Miner has devised in collaboration with two younger Indigenous artists based in Grand Rapids, who will lead cyanotype-making workshops with West Michigan Indigenous youth at selected regional locales. These works produced by these youth, as well as Miner’s work in the exhibition, will be compiled in an accompanying artist’s book to be published by Issue Press of Grand Rapids.
Miner has exhibited his work internationally in solo and group exhibitions and been artist-in-residence or visiting artist at institutions such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, École supérieure des beaux-arts in Nantes, France, Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, Rabbit Island, Santa Fe Art Institute, and numerous universities, art schools, and low-residency MFA programs. Miner is Director of American Indian and Indigenous Studies and Associate Professor in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. He holds a PhD from The University of New Mexico and regularly publishes articles, book chapters, critical essays, and encyclopedia entries. In 2010, he was awarded an Artist Leadership Fellowship through the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution).