The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is organizing an exhibition of the work of Jaune Quick-to See Smith, one of the best-known Native America artists of the late twentieth century. Born in Montana, Smith is an enrolled Sqelix'u (Salish) member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation. She has lived and worked in New Mexico since 1976. Like Georgia O’Keeffe, Smith embraced her new environment and began painting landscapes that express a deeply personal sense of place and connection to the land of New Mexico. The exhibition will focus on Smith’s “inhabited landscapes” in which she joins modernist color and techniques with her unique visual vocabulary of figures.
Organized by Georgia O’Keeffe Museum associate curator, Carolyn Kastner, the exhibition is part of the Living Artists of Distinction Series. It will include both oil paintings and works on paper from two of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s most powerful series. Smith began the Petroglyph Park Series just five years after she earned her MA in art from the University of New Mexico in 1980. The series established Smith’s artistic voice in the lineage of American landscape painting. Her brilliant color, compositional style, and gestural layers of paint, ground Smith’s painting in modern abstraction, even as she extends the tradition with her unique visual vocabulary of plants, animals and humans. By 1989, Smith began to work in a postmodern technique using found materials, text, and images in a series named for Chief Seattle, whose eloquent speech of 1854 is still remembered as an ecological prophecy. Smith creates a sense of urgency in that body of work by pairing Seattle’s words of warning with beautiful but threatening images of the polluted landscape of the late twentieth century. Like Georgia O’Keeffe, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s personal and passionate attachment to New Mexico has transformed American art and our vision of the landscape.