Southern Agenda

Form and Function

When Nancy Strickland Fields looked at the flawless craftsmanship of an AD 700 pot discovered at Town Creek Indian Mound, she felt thunderstruck by inspiration for an exhibition she had been invited to guest-curate at the North Carolina Museum of Art. “I wanted it to focus on three-dimensional works that tell the story of who we are as Native peoples, because with three dimensions, you’re getting the clay, the hides, the fur, the earth itself.” Over the next year and a half, Fields, a member of the Lumbee Tribe and the director of the Museum of the Southeast American Indian in Pembroke, gathered pieces from seventy-six Indigenous artists. The result—an exhibition titledTo Take Shape and Meaning: Form and Design in Contemporary American Indian Art—runs through July 28 in Raleigh. Works include a beaded basket in the shape of an owl by the Passamaquoddy artist Jeremy Frey, Cherokee corn-husk dolls by Laura Walkingstick, and a piece by the Chickasaw Choctaw weaver Margaret Roach Wheeler. “For Native peoples,” Fields says, “when we give something shape, we give it meaning and it takes on a life.”