Mn Artists Presents: [Your Name Here]

Mn Artists Presents: Jovan C. Speller

May 3, 2018

Choosing Home: A Right, A Privilege or an Act of Trespass, was a one-night “visual inquiry” in which guest curator/collaborator Jovan C. Speller activated the Walker Art Center’s public spaces. In this multidisciplinary presentation, artists/collaborators Dyani White Hawk Polk, Alanna Morris-Van Tassel and Rosy Simas assessed the current state of the North American landscape and one’s ability to claim it as home.

Those with the privilege of power over this land, the United States, proclaim that it has no official language, that it is made up of immigrants, and a place where freedom reigns. It was said to be a safe haven, a new start, a dream. But what is home, without the recognition and reconciliation of the myths that were used as tools to manipulate and oppress generations of peoples? What is home, when complicated by centuries of radical and violent displacement, forced relocation, captivity, migration, and colonization? The presenting artists reacted and recounted these notions through the lenses of Native American, African American and Caribbean stories.

Dyani White Hawk Polk, stepping into new multidisciplinary art practices and experimentation, presented a new performance centered around languages indigenous to this land, and a collaborative short film which explored overlaps in domestic and ceremonial ritual in Native American and African American cultures. Choreographer Rosy Simas presented a durational performance in reaction to the recent practice of institutional recognition of Native land. Through movement, imagery and sound, Simas investigated feelings of non-belonging and the beginnings of division. Choreographer and contemporary dancer Alanna Morris-Van Tassel shared a portion of her recent solo project entitled Yam, Potatoe an Fish! This is a multi-media performance exploring the passage of time and movement of people amidst the artist’s family’s story of migration from the Caribbean to Brooklyn, NY. It examines cultural loss and the meaning of being lost, while canvassing the significance of the spiritual and corporeal bond of sisters as they claim their relationship to family, history, culture, legacy, gifts, and story.

Event schedule:

  • Short film by Dyani White Hawk: on view 5-9 pm
  • Performances by Alanna Morris-Van Tassel: 5:30, 6:15, and 7 pm
  • Performance by Rosy Simas: 6-7 pm
  • Performance by Dyani White Hawk: 6:30 pm 
  • Panel discussion: 7:30 pm

Guest curator: 

Jovan C. Speller is an artist, independent curator and creative consultant living and working in the Twin Cities. Her work has been influenced by women, childhood, history and the land; exploring the juxtaposition of beauty and deterioration and the beauty of deterioration. Speller was a 2016/2017 Jerome Emerging Artist Fellow, a partner recipient of a 2014/15 Minnesota State Arts Board Cultural Community Partnership grant, with work published in INTO: Minneapolis (2016). She holds a BFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago.

Participating artists:

Professional contemporary dancer, teaching artist, choreographer, and artist organizer, Alanna Morris-Van Tassel is one of Dance Magazine‘s “25 to Watch!” for 2018.   Currently a freelance artist, she spent 10 seasons as a featured dancer with Minnesota-based company TU Dance (Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands, Co-Artistic Directors) and has worked professionally with Nathan Trice/RITUALS, Andrea Miller, and Janis Brenner & Dancers.  Morris-Van Tassel is a recipient of a McKnight Dance Fellowship and a Minnesota SAGE Award for Outstanding Performer for her solo, Dreams: A SOLO and the TU Dance Spring season.  Alanna is currently developing a body of solo dance works, featuring works by Jamie Philbert (Trinidad), Idan Sharabi (Israel) and Alanna Morris-Van Tassel.  Alanna is a graduate of Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and holds a BFA in Dance from The Juilliard School. 

Rosy Simas is a Haudenosaunee (Seneca, Heron Clan) artist based in Minneapolis. Simas has been honored by the Native community with a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship (2013), a First Peoples Fund Fellowship (2016), and residencies at the Banff Centre Indigenous Arts Program, All My Relations Arts, Full Circle’s Talking Stick Festival, and Institute of American Indian Arts’ Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. Simas is a Guggenheim (2015) and McKnight (2016) Choreography Fellow. Her work is supported nationally by the Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge; New England Foundation for the Arts National Dance Project, MAP Fund, and National Performance Network Creation Fund. “I am the fifth great-granddaughter of Chief Cornplanter and the fourth great-granddaughter of Chief Halftown and Governor Blacksnake. Along with the clan mothers who advised the chiefs, it is the diplomacy and commitment of my ancestors to the survival of our people that I AM HERE. My projects unify physical movement with time-based media, sound and objects for both stage and installation. In my choreography I unite cultural ideas and images with scientific theories to create work that is literal, abstract and metaphoric. My work positions Native cultural and political persistence to engage the personal and social, including identity, matriarchy, sovereignty, equality and the effects of war. To complement these themes, I make dances that decolonize bodies and develop movement vocabularies with the ability to oscillate between Indigenous and Eurocentric movement. By challenging contemporary dance conventions, I am advocating for the inclusion of an Indigenous worldview.”

Dyani White Hawk is a painter, mixed-media artist and independent curator based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is Sičangu Lakota, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. White Hawk earned a MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2011) and BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico (2008). She served as Gallery Director and Curator for the All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota from 2011-2015. In May of 2015 White Hawk transitioned into full-time studio practice. White Hawk is a recipient of the 2017 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Mentor Fellowship, 2015 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship, 2014 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant, 2013/14 McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship and the 2012 Southwestern Association of Indian Arts Discovery Fellowship. She has participated in cross-cultural residencies in South Africa, Botswana, Australia and Russia. Her work has been acquisitioned into the collections of the Denver Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Tweed Museum of Art, IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Akta Lakota Museum among other public and private collections. She is represented by Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis and Shiprock Santa Fe.