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Athena LaTocha: Mesabi Redux

Fri, June 10, 2022Sun, December 25, 2022

Athena LaTocha, Untitled (Mesabi #11), 2019, 36.75 x 22.5 x 4 in., AL 2019.0016. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Athena LaTocha, Untitled (Mesabi #11), 2019, 36.75 x 22.5 x 4 in., AL 2019.0016. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Athena LaTocha (Lakota and Ojibwe) created the works in her Mesabi series on-site at iron deposits in the Mesabi Mountain Range of northern Minnesota, which is known to the local Ojibwe as Misaabe-wajiw, “Giant Mountain” or “Sleeping Giant.” The range is the site of the world’s third-largest open-pit iron ore mine. LaTocha cast iron reliefs during a month-long residency, coordinated by the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids and supported by the Minnesota Museum of Mining in Chisholm, where iron mining started in the 1880s and continues today.

The works were cast by pouring molten iron freestyle into a bed of sand. The process is an extension of LaTocha’s gestural painting practice, where she pours and throws ink, earth, and other materials onto monumental sheets of paper. During the pour, while the iron is still liquid, LaTocha manipulates the molten metal with various tools much the same way she uses found objects to manipulate pools of ink. Over the course of her residency, the artist traveled daily across the Mesabi Range between Grand Rapids and Chisholm. By day and by night, she saw piles of mine waste—tailings and overburden—appearing as uncanny mountains along the highways where surface mining operations have reshaped the land and culture. As part of her process, LaTocha works within the traditional homeland of her Lakota and Ojibwe ancestors and considers the impact mining has upon nature, society, and culture.

LaTocha has a studio in Brooklyn, New York. She received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Stony Brook University in 2007. She is the recipient of a prestigious Joan Mitchell Fellowship and a Rauschenberg Residency.

For more information, please contact IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) Chief Curator Manuela Well-Off-Man at


Fri, June 10, 2022
Sun, December 25, 2022
Event Category:


IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA)
(888) 922-4242


IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) South Gallery
108 Cathedral Place
Santa Fe, 87501 United States
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(888) 922-4242