The Artist as Activist is a panel discussion highlighting the intersection between art practice and activism for Mesh artists, Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, Lehuauakea, Leah Rose Kolakowski, and muralist Lynnette Haozous. Moderated by Anishinaabe curator, artist and educator, Wanda Nanibush, this discussion considers the roles that art and artists take within current movements for political and social justice, and the ways in which these movements have inspired change within the landscape of contemporary art.
Ka’ila Farrell-Smith (b. 1982) is a Klamath Modoc artist who works and lives in Modoc Point, Oregon. In addition to degrees from Pacific Northwest College of Art and Portland State University, her work is informed by work with Wasco fiber artist weaver Pat Courtney Gold and a mentorship with Coquille/Coos carver Shirod Younker. Farrell-Smith is a 2021 Hallie Ford Fellow with the Ford Family Foundation, a curator, and certified Wilderness First Responder.
Lynnette Haozous (b. 1985) is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is Chiricahua Apache and a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, with Diné and Taos Pueblo heritage. In addition to a conventional studio arts education, she has worked closely with Diné mentor Nanibah Chacon to hone her mural painting skills. Haozous received a degree in social work, which informs her use of art as a tool for teaching and advocacy.
Lehuauakea (b. 1996) is a māhū mixed-Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) interdisciplinary artist from Pāpaʻikou on Moku O Keawe, the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, who lives in Seattle, Washington. The artist earned a BFA from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in painting with a minor in Art + Ecology. Their mentor Wesley Sen is a deep influence on their work with kapa; mixed media artist Brenda Mallory, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, was a guide for their recent interdisciplinary practice.
Leah Rose Kolakowski (b. 1989) is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Tribe, living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She received a BFA from the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design with a concentration in darkroom photography, alternative processes, and in-camera experimental techniques, and recently apprenticed with Chemehuevi photographer Cara Romero.
Wanda Nanibush is an Anishinaabe curator, artist and educator based in Toronto, Ontario. She is the Curator of Indigenous Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the author of the book Violence No More: The Rise of Indigenous Women. This program is supported in part by Native Arts & Cultures Foundation and the Museum’s Native American Art Council.
Ka’ila is a contemporary Klamath Modoc artist whose practice is directly informed by her ancestral homelands in Southern Oregon. The framework of her practice focuses on channeling cultural, political, and historical research through a creative flow of experimentation and artistic playfulness rooted in Indigenous aesthetics and abstract formalism. The root of her current research is about familial lineage and connection to land. This has required genealogical research and tribal research tracking land sales/theft and legacies of Settler-Colonialism in Oregon. Her studio practice explores space in-between the Indigenous and western paradigms and fields of knowledge. This research is a part of the studio practice and the visual artwork is a performative act of dictation. She utilizes white paint as a form of redaction and erasure, reclaiming colonizer’s attempts to erase Indigenous power and control. The use of white functions as a reflection of the oppressive white supremacist culture, as well as the sublime.
Her painting practice is responsive to the land and place, walking and hiking are important part of life. She harvests wild pigments, charcoal from nearby scorched forest floors, clay from unique landscapes, and mixes them with acrylic gel medium to create earth pigments. In contrast, she takes found objects and uses them as stencils with aerosol paint to reflect the aesthetics of street art and graffiti. Ka’ila exhibits work in the form of paintings, sculptures, and self-curated installations.
About Scalehouse: Scalehouse is a multidisciplinary contemporary arts center convening diverse thinkers for in-depth discussions, artistic collaborations, exhibitions and events, including Bend Design and Scalehouse Gallery. Scalehouse believes our shared future presents complex challenges and opportunities, not just benefiting from creativity but requiring it. We are committed to programming that’s accessible, provocative, extraordinary and inclusive — always with an eye toward a better future. Learn more and connect at www.scalehouse.org.