Yuba Sutter Arts & Culture in Marysville brought together four panelists (a fifth sent in a statement) on Saturday as part of Birds of a Feather – the first gallery exhibition since the pandemic-induced closure of galleries and theaters in March of last year.
The artists featured – all of Native American descent – were Jeremy Peconom (Mountain Maidu), Meyo Marrufo (Eastern Pomo), Kai LaPena (Wintu), Jaime Lanouettte (Nisenan) and Shanti Parks (Mewuk).
Peconom was not present Saturday but sent in a statement. The rest answered questions from a moderator that covered a variety of topics. Some of the topics included use of the word Indian, what inspires artists these days, and how they want to be viewed publicly.
LaPena, of the Wintu tribe based out of Northern California, expressed the importance of “fiddling,” and expanding on it.
It’s up to the individual, he said, to take it to the next level.
Marrufo, of the Eastern Pono tribe in Clear Lake, begins a lot of her work with “finger doodling,” which she equates to drawing on a smartphone.
The doodles are typically based on simple observations or the time of the year, Marrufo said during the discussion.
Marrufo often sees October as acorn season, and therefore she’ll draw an acorn.
Lanouettte, of the Nisenan tribe based in Northern California as far south as below the Consumnes River, said she is inspired by her ancestry and learning more about her roots.
“It’s never too late to be willing to learn from others,” Lanouettte said.
What inspires LaPena is a traditional feathers dance, which he called illegal at one point in time. He started when he was 3 years old and has continued to this day.
As for the word Indian, the panelists had differing views. Marrufo doesn’t mind the term, but prefers “California Indian,” as a way to raise awareness.
Peconom stated that it is important to note that all Native California Indian artists are connected in some way.
“As a Native California Indian artist, the title of this art show was carefully chosen to express the internal connection all California Native Indians have with our environment and traditional lands,” Peconom said. “Although we have many distinct cultural differences and dialects within California, one thing remains constant and true. As California Natives, we are all interconnected, not just through genetics, but spiritually with our generational connection to Mother Earth. So, in essence we are all feathers from the same bird.”
The Birds of a Feather exhibition is currently on display at the Yuba Sutter Arts & Culture Gallery at 624 E St. in Marysville through the end of the month.