The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the most prestigious galleries in the United States, having hosted several important pieces for more than a century. It recently put up a new show titled “Water Memories,” featuring works with displays by Native Americans.
Sitting as the centerpiece of the exhibit is a denim jacket on display – a Wrangler knock-off, the jacket features lines of blue beads along its sleeves and waist with a red felt thunderbird stitched to the back.
Patricia Marroquin Norby is the curator responsible for the unique exhibit.
She is one of the most influential people at the helm, having made headlines in 2020 for becoming the first person of Indigenous descent to claim a full-time position in the museum’s 150-year history.
“The thunderbird is a sacred image to the Anishinaabe people,” said Norby. “It actually represents a thunder cloud.”
The exhibit is meant to showcase artworks that depict water’s importance and significance to Native American nations. Norby was responsible for putting the denim jacket at the heart of the exhibit.
She explained that the beading on the jacket represented water droplets, saying it was added with the thunderbird by Rick St. Germaine and his mother, Saxon St. Germaine.
The accessories were added when Germaine was only 19, and he wore the jacket during the Native American occupation of the Winter Dam all the way back in the early 1970s.
Patricia Marroquin Norby first noticed the jacket in a small museum and knew immediately that she had to display it on in an exhibit, saying it represents different generations of Native Americans while showcasing how the art speaks to their activism regarding water.
Water Memories isn’t the first exhibit to showcase Native American art.
Years earlier, another exhibit included it among the different works from Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America.
In 2017, Charles and Valier Diker promised gifts, donations, and loans from their collection, which saw the museum move the Native American art pieces to where it belongs – the American Wing.
The exhibit is a companion to beaded clothes and other pieces from the “Art of Native America” galleries. In addition, it also tells a story.
“As you go through the exhibition, you’ll realize what we are doing is creating a current, a stream of stories and memories,” explained Norby.
“I want people to leave with the understanding that we all have a role in protecting freshwater sources,” said Norby. “That we all have intimate ties to water, and that without fresh water, we will not survive.”
Opinions expressed by CEO Weekly contributors are their own.