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Show Up and Show Out at the “Art of Indigenous Fashion” Opening Reception at MoCNA

Aug 8, 2022

“There is no one way to define Indigenous fashion, but what I can say is Indigenous fashion is the original fashion and design of North America,” says Amber-Dawn Bear Robe (Siksika Nation), guest curator of the upcoming Art of Indigenous Fashion exhibition at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) and instructor of Art History at the Institute of American Indian Arts. The Art of Indigenous Fashion, which will be on view at MoCNA from August 19, 2022—January 8, 2023, offers insights into the approaches and perspectives of Indigenous designers beyond the visual and material qualities of their work.

“This is a unique story, and a specific story, that I feel can only be told from an Indigenous person’s perspective and a curatorial perspective that is very much involved with the artists and designers that are included in this show,” says Bear Robe. She is also the director of the annual SWAIA Fashion Show and has worked with some of the exhibited artists for over a decade. “There are all these histories, nuances, and stories that have not been written about—that have not come to the surface.” Art of Indigenous Fashion is a foray into filling some of these knowledge gaps.

One important section of the exhibition is dedicated to IAIA alums and pays homage to the 60-year history of IAIA and the 50-year history of MoCNA. Notably, the Institute was co-founded by fashion designer Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee). It was a training ground for influential contemporary Indigenous fashion designers, including Jamie Okuma (Luiseno, Shoshone-Bannock, and Wailaki), Marcus Amerman (Choctaw) ’84, and Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo) ’89, all of whom are included in the show.


Additionally, multimedia artist Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo) has created an installation at MoCNA and related installations at museums around Santa Fe. Visitors can view this installation at the opening and then visit other museums around the city to take in the entirety of the story these works tell.

The Art of Indigenous Fashion celebrates the creativity and excitement of style, as will its opening on Friday, August 19, from 5:00–7:00 pm. “I’m encouraging people to come in their finest, to come in their bling, to get outrageous with their style and fashion, and to have fun with this show,” says Bear Robe. Guests at the reception will include designers featured in the exhibition and presenting their work at SWAIA, actors from the Showtime television series Dark Winds, and in-demand fashion models, including actress, model, and activist Ashley Callingbull (Enoch Cree Nation), who, in 2015, became the first Indigenous person to win the Mrs. Universe pageant. 

During the opening reception, museum visitors are encouraged to explore MoCNA’s other recent exhibitions: Matrilineal: Legacies of Our Mothers and Athena LaTocha: Mesabi ReduxMatrilineal (July 29, 2022–January 15, 2023) features the art and fashion design of three generations of Mvskoke (Creek) mothers and daughters. Founded in 1976, The Fife Collection incorporates Southeastern Indigenous motifs in an innovative clothing line. Mesabi Redux (June 10–December 25, 2022) presents work created by artist Athena Latocha (Standing Rock Lakota and Keweenaw Bay Ojibwe) during a month-long residency coordinated by the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, MN, and supported by the Minnesota Museum of Mining in Chisholm, MN. While on-site at iron deposits in the Mesabi Mountain Range, Atocha cast relief sculptures by pouring molten iron freestyle into beds of sand, creating a series that considers the impacts mining has upon nature, society, and culture.

IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA)

The IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) is the country’s only museum for exhibiting, collecting, and interpreting the most progressive work of contemporary Native artists. MoCNA is dedicated solely to advancing the scholarship, discourse, and interpretation of contemporary Native art for regional, national, and international audiences—as such, it stewards over 10,000 Contemporary Indigenous artworks (created 1962 to present). MoCNA is at the forefront of contemporary Native art presentation and strives to be flexible, foresighted, and risk-taking in its exhibitions and programs. MoCNA is located in the heart of downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico.