Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds is a citizen of the Diné/Navajo Nation where she was born and raised. In 2021, she earned a PhD from Middlesex University in London, England. Her research degree focused on contemporary Native American/Indigenous visual artists and theater and performance studies. Her dissertation, entitled "Indigenous Performance Politics: A Decolonial Perspective of Performative Works by Kent Monkman, Spiderwoman Theater Company, Rebecca Belmore, and James Luna", advocates that we need a greater decolonial understanding of the complex ways in which contemporary Indigenous artists, and their communities, are positioned differently within a globalized, capitalist system deeply embedded in the multiple layers of imperial and colonial practices.
As a writer and independent scholar, Ketchum-Heap of Birds has published and lectured both nationally and internationally. Recent essays were published in Beyond Failure: New Essays on the Cultural History of Failure in Theatre and Performance (Routledge), Artforum International and Wired Italia magazine. Recent lectures were at Artists Space in NYC, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Nanyang University in Singapore, and Skype/Zoom lectures for the Barcelona Facultat De Geografia; Història Universitat De Barcelona; Museu D’art Contemporani De Barcelona (MACBA) and Shape: A Virtual Artist Residency sponsored by Vinegar Projects: An Artists-Run Space.
From 2007-2018, Ketchum-Heap of Birds was an instructor in the Native American Studies Department at the University of Oklahoma in Norman where she was affiliate faculty in the Women and Gender Studies program and the Center for Social Justice. More recently, she taught Native American Art at the University of Tulsa.
Dr. Ketchum-Heap of Birds is currently on the board of Spiderwoman Theater Company (the longest running Native American feminist theater group in the USA) and continues to write and curate independently as a proud Diné scholar.
I never thought I would do this but I am excited to be curating a show with Lucas Wrench who is the proprietor of the independent art space OK #1 located at 8124 E 21st Unit A, Tulsa OK, 74129. Press Release:
OK #1 presents Suffer, Dance, Stand: Native Survival with Edgar Heap of Birds, Douglas Miles, and Warren Realrider, curated by Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds with Lucas Wrench.
April 8th - May 1st, 2022
8124A E 21st, Tulsa, OK 74129
For Immediate Release: Marking the first exhibition for both Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne/ Arapaho) and Douglas Miles (San Carlos Apache-Akimel O'odham) here in Tulsa on the Muscogee Nation, Suffer, Dance, Stand offers an unflinching exploration of the violence, the survival strategies, and the resilience embedded in this land formerly known as Indian Territory, from forced removal to present day struggles for tribal sovereignty.
We are honored to present audiences with a thorough sampling of the public art and prints of Edgar Heap of Birds. Included in the exhibition are two Native Hosts banners, installed on the exteriors of OK #1, and the Center for Public Secrets near downtown Tulsa. As Heap of Birds’ longest running series, Native Hosts utilizes the conventions of public signage, disrupted by reversed text, to challenge and subvert dynamics between occupier and "host" as expressed in typical land acknowledgements. Within the gallery is a collaborative wall drawing produced with students from Bacone College, the 140+ year-old Native American university that predates Oklahoma statehood. Heap of Birds is also contributing four of his iconic red and white monoprints, marked by poetic, provocative phrases and word associations exploring the violence against Native people embedded in American imperialism. Indian Still Target Obama Bin Laden Geronimo for example, connects the Obama administration's code name for Osama Bin Laden, to the historic Apache leader who died as a prisoner of war in Oklahoma's Fort Sill. Lastly we are privileged to present the 2005 artwork Trail of Tears. Originally exhibited in Atlanta, near the origin point of forced removal, this is the first time this piece has been exhibited in Oklahoma.
This will be the first exhibition in Oklahoma for artist Douglas Miles, who will be traveling to Tulsa from the San Carlos Apache Reservation where Miles lives and works. As the founder of Apache Skateboards - one of the first Native American owned skate companies - Miles is known for merging street art aesthetics with traditional Apache imagery. Miles will exhibit a new mural on the exterior of OK #1, as well as a series of printed blankets. A selection of merchandise from Apache Skateboards will also be available for sale in the OK #1 shop, including a limited series of hand-painted skate decks created by Miles and Heap of Birds for the exhibition.
Norman-based sound artist Warren RealRider (Pawnee/Crow) aka Tick Suck, who studied under Heap of Birds at the University of Oklahoma, will present an opening night performance utilizing materials sourced from local waterways, with the performance ephemera forming the basis for an installation on view for the duration of the exhibition.
Additional contributions include a catalog essay from exhibition curator Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds (Diné/Navajo), and a poetry reading organized by Lewis Freedman.
This exhibition is made possible thanks to the Interchange Artist Grant, and the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition. Special thanks to the Center for Public Secrets and Skewed Press.
Being the Board President of Spiderwoman Theater Company has been a dream come true! The troupe is excited for their new show entitled "Misdemeanor Dream." From their website, they describe Misdemeanor Dream as a multigenerational theatre project which brings together performers, designers and cultural practitioners from Native and First Nations communities across Turtle Island. Weaving uncomfortable conversations with irreverent humor, they shed a light on personal and community stories of chaos and reclamation, of tricksters and spirits, of journeys through the star worlds and the between worlds. Misdemeanor Dream explores our cultural sources using the rhythms and songs of our original languages and traditionally-inspired installation art spaces and environments, daring to dream, to act and to ensure our collective futures. Please see their website for booked dates and places to see the show!