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March 4, 2021

Christina Claassen, Marketing & PR Manager
Whatcom Museum

Whatcom Museum to Show Exhibition Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women

The Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash. presents a new exhibition, “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women,” by Matika Wilbur, a photographer from the Tulalip and Swinomish Tribes and the creator and director of Project 562.

The exhibition opens at the Lightcatcher building on March 13, 2021 and features 28 photographs of Native American women, along with interviews, written narratives and an audio compilation featuring the sitters’ sharing their stories.Wilbur is the only Native American photographer to be welcomed into more than 500 Native American sovereign Nations in the United States. For the past nine years, Wilbur has collaborated with scores of tribes to share the images and truths of Native American peoples.

Wilbur is the only Native American photographer to be welcomed into more than 500 Native American sovereign Nations in the United States. For the past nine years, Wilbur has collaborated with scores of tribes to share the images and truths of Native American peoples.

In the exhibition, Wilbur has curated the striking photographs from among the thousands of portraits she has taken in recent years. Written narratives and audio of the interviews she conducts as part of her project accompany the photographs. Elders, activists, educators, culture-bearers, artists and students have shared with Wilbur their realities as Native women. They convey how ancestral and contemporary identities shape their lives and hopes in Indian Country.

“We portray the extraordinary lives and stories of Native women throughout North America. I believe the viewers will experience great understanding and connection with these remarkable women, just as they have enlightened and inspired me,” explains Wilbur. “Native women are traditionally the stewards of the vital relationship with land, and have remained principal advocates for Mother Earth, from fracking protests to enduring matrilineal values. By exposing the astonishing variety of the Indigenous presence and reality, we will build cultural bridges, abandon stereotypes, and renew and inspire our national legacy.”

Visitors will see photographs that glimpse into the lives of Native women from across the Northwest and Turtle Island. The exhibition includes new images taken of Northwest Native women, including a mother-to-be from the Lummi Nation.

“We are grateful to Matika Wilbur for sharing her powerful images with our community, which shine light on the dynamic experiences of Indigenous women,” says Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art. “It’s especially exciting that Wilbur will be including new works that highlight the stories of women from our region’s sovereign Nations.”The exhibition has inspired the Whatcom Museum to host a community photo project through the month of March called “Celebrating Our Matriarchs.” The project invites community members to submit photographs celebrating matriarchs and will culminate in a virtual exhibition on the Museum’s website. Three photography workshops are also offered to help people learn photography skills and techniques on March 6, 13 and 20. The Museum is also excited to partner with Whatcom Community College to engage with different audiences and students, expanding the possibilities for additional programming related to Wilbur’s exhibition during early summer.

“Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women,” will be on exhibit March 13 – June 13, 2021 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St. The Museum is currently open for general admission at 25% capacity. For more information about the Museum’s Covid-19 response and protocols visit the Museum's Covid response page.

“Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women,” was originally shown at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. The Whatcom Museum’s showing of the exhibition is presented by the Lhaq’temish Foundation, Lummi Nation, with additional support from Jean Andresen, Rafeeka & Neal Kloke, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, the City of Bellingham and Grantmakers for Girls of Color.

About Matika Wilbur: Matika Wilbur, one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading photographers, has exhibited extensively in regional, national and international venues such as the Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, The Tacoma Art Museum, the Royal British Columbia Museum of Fine Arts and the Nantes Museum of Fine Arts in France. She studied photography at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Montana and received a bachelor’s degree from Brooks Institute of Photography in California. Her work led her to becoming a certified teacher at Tulalip Heritage High School, providing inspiration for the youth of her own indigenous community. Wilbur, a Native American woman of the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes (Washington), is unique as an artist and social documentarian in Indian Country—the insight, depth and passion with which she explores the contemporary Native identity and experience are communicated through the impeccable artistry of each of her silver gelatin photographs. Her collection of photographs and narratives from Project 562 is soon to be published by Ten Speed Press/Random House.

About the Whatcom Museum: The Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash., offers a variety of exhibitions, programs, tours and activities about art, nature and Northwest history for all ages. Its multi-building campus is in the heart of Bellingham's downtown Arts District. The Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St., and Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St., are open at 25% capacity due to Covid-19 safety restrictions Thursdays – Sundays, Noon – 5 PM. Admission to the Museum is free to members, $10 for general admission, $8 for youth (6-17)/students/military (with valid ID)/Seniors (62+), $5 for children 2-5 years old and free to children 2 and younger. For more information about our exhibitions and admission visit whatcommuseum.org.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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