Today, I am happy to announce as our new year begins as Anishinaabe people, the award of the 2023 Bush Fellowship. There is much to reflect on already, and the fellowship has not yet officially started.
I don’t know if it has truly sunk in to say, “I am a 2023 Bush Fellow.”
Last week, we went to the headquarters of the Bush Foundation, I was eager and nervous.
Though I am not a morning person, I found myself walking around St. Paul before the cohort began, and there I came across another Bush Fellow- a very familiar face. We made some small talk, and then stated who would have thought the two of us would be there in that moment, together? Once upon a time, we were just two little scrappy rez kids, unsure of our future. For me, uncertain if there was a future. I was going through traumas in my teen years, already losing faith in myself, and in society. Yet, there were so many loving elders, including my late Grandmother- who always left her door unlocked in case someone needed a safe place to rest their head for a night and a warm pot of soup on the stove to feed their soul. (Often seasoned heavily with broth and pepper, which I often long for.) My grandparents did not have a large home, and they lived on a modest budget, yet that did not prevent generosity and kindness. Despite all the adversities they had gone through in their lives, it did not harden them, it taught them empathy, and to do what they can within their capacities. I am thankful for those lessons taught, which some have taken time to really settle into.
Every step I have taken leading up to this specific junction in my life was influenced by many people. Some of the people have walked on into the spirit world. Some people walked alongside me or led me, which could have been for longer journeys, and some for very brief moments. There were also moments where I walked alone- but the point is, I continued forward. There were many moccasins worn on this journey, and I am thankful for that ability to adapt to what is needed. As I embark on this new endeavor, I am hoping I can continue to keep that pot of soup full and ready for whomever may need it.
I am eager for this fellowship- as I intend to further my studies and explore. I will continue my work as an Independent artist as well.
Miigwech, thank you, for all the continued support.
Gigi-waabamin, see you later,
Upcoming events (Schedule May Change)
Art in the Park, Watermark Art Center, Bemidji, MN July 15-16
Pollinator Festival, St. Paul, MN, August 6th
SWAIA Indian Market, Santa Fe, NM August 19-20
Phipps Center for the Arts, May-July 2024
North Dakota Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (Statewide)
GROUNDED - CARAVAN Arts (National and International)
2023 is starting out incredibly busy here in the Midwest!
This week, in Fargo, ND, Plains Art Museum is the inaugural host to the 2023 North Dakota Human Rights Film & Arts Festival, a traveling exhibit.
The continuation of Grounded via CARAVAN Arts is full speed ahead! From what I can see, the new gallery host has an incredibly beautiful space. Program and Reception is January 21 in Casper, WY. (Hopefully, I’ll be able to see the show someday!)
And, Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, WI will debut their next exhibition February 24- April 9; the reception will be February 25.
And, I am excited to announce a solo exhibition at the Phipps Center for the Arts in late spring through early summer of 2024!
So while it may have seemed a bit quiet on the side of social media and website, it has been quite busy!
If you are interested in sponsorship for travel and other costs accrued for me to participate, please contact me. (Delta gift cards can ease burden of travel, and it is our only airline in Grand Forks, ND.)
Hope to see you all in one of these spaces!
So here we are, entering 2nd anniversary of 2020... jokes. Sort of. Before the international New Year had taken place, I began thinking of creating a vision board as I am horrible with keeping track of goals along with being organized. I also wanted to review the things that have happened since last January. I finding it fascinating how fast the year had gone by, although we spent so much of it at home. And of course, I wonder how all of this experience will translate into my work as an artist, yet still processing so much of it.
Before I go any further, I mentioned the international New Year, as for many different cultures, our New Years take place at different times. Such as for us as Anishinaabe, the new year begins when the first spring blooms for berries blossom. Or so I was taught as a child, and to further that, we don't have 12 months, we have 13 moons in a year. So it is really interesting being part of society and aligning it all. I wonder if why my affinity for ode'imin (strawberries) is because it is truly the start of my new year. When I come across the new shoots during ziigwan as the soil begins to warm, I am absolutely delighted. The fondness of ode'imin grew as I learned the stories of ode'imin or heart berry. Deconstructing the word ode' means heart and -min refers to the berry. The strawberry is so fascinating as you take time to cultivate it, there's lessons learned... the relationship is reciprocal. I have many memories surrounding this fruit from my own childhood and even as a mother.. such as when I was passing on lessons of the birch tree and how to properly harvest the bark. As we finished that harvest, from the corner of my eye in the thick grasses did wild ode'imin appear. I quickly hopped into the thicket, saying thank you to the Creator, then sharing the sweetness and medicine of this berry with my spouse and youngest child.
Moving forward, during the first year of the pandemic, I vividly recall cleaning the strawberry bed in my garden, soon a wetness was falling on them, it wasn't rain, but my eyes. I had been holding in so much sadness within, the relationship I created with this plant was allowing me to grieve. It wasn't just grief that created these tears but also relief to have something familiar and comforting at my knees. I had lost friends to death, some friendships ending in a time when I needed them the most. I know reciprocity lacks throughout society, but I always hoped I had it in relationships no matter the strength of the bond or lack thereof. Though the pandemic had caused a major shift in the world, it made an abrupt stop in my work as an artist, these loss of friendships, deaths, and so forth were shattering enough, I was busy being a mother trying to keep it together for my children. My eldest struggling with severe anxiety and major depression with suicidal ideation hit us months before COVID had, and I didn't know how to help her. I was thankful despite the isolation, that these plants were there to provide the comfort I didn't know I needed.
Oddly, I do believe the pandemic lockdown was a gift in a sense because it gave the quiet my child needed. Long before these struggles hit my child, I would advocate for access to adequate mental health care, and due to this advocacy, I was well aware of the challenges we were facing to find her the support she needs. It is physically, mentally and spiritually exhausting as a mother to watch their child helplessly; I cannot begin to fathom how draining it is for someone that struggles with mental health as she does. And as I try to help her, I need help, guidance and love as well so I can be that strength for her as well as the rest of my family. Although I may not find that in others, its understanding the plants and our environment that helps me heal over and over again. Perhaps like ode'imin, my energy is dormant for sometime, and then flourishes under the right circumstances and provides to others as needed. And for those curious, after everything she has experienced in her young life which I haven't fully disclosed, she is wrapping up her senior year and hopefully graduating rather soon. I see similarities in my own childhood experiences and what she has experienced, I hope that once this moment in her life is completed, she can move on and move forward.
Well, that was an unexpected tangent, but an important one. In a sense perhaps it rolls into the reflections of this past year. I can't pinpoint a lot of specifics to the year of 2021 in this moment. Yet I do know, I've allowed myself to heal from trauma, which is complicated. A year ago, I decided to take a step back from being so vocal in my advocacy on social media, though the work never stopped. I've just approached things differently. Some of those friendships that ended also helped me realign myself, realizing how unhealthy the friendships were. I am far from saying that these individuals are bad or horrible, but I understand just some energies don't mix well. Some can also amplify negative energies. Or you can see their light being diminished by others, refusing to acknowledge what is happening to them. And though we can share what we are witnessing, that is as far as it goes. It is ultimately up to individuals to make choices for themselves. That is where I also deviate into discussing a part of healing that may or not take a lifetime.
Late this spring, I received a message from an old high school friend. We chat sporadically throughout the years, and they're friends with my siblings; so I think nothing of the situation and answer. He starts making small talk and then says, "guess who I'm here with." I believe I held my breath and a surge of negative energy overwhelmed me. I knew what he meant. He meant he was hanging with a former abuser of mine. I stated I don't want to talk to the friend right now and that I do not want to get into this game. Then my phone rang. I was infuriated, I thought it was the friend, and I was prepared to tell him how horrible of a friend he is to do that to me. Instead I heard another voice. My heart sank. I panicked. I was dizzy. I know expletives came from my mouth as I say to never contact me again and that I had made that abundantly clear (and repetitively) over the years. After hanging up, I called my parents in tears, why won't this person stop? It's been 20 years, twenty years, and they won't stop. I moved away, despite hardships as anyone else may experience, I am happy. I am living a good life. I am working hard to break the cycle of intergenerational traumas. I know that's hard for many to accept, thus perhaps why they try to poison it. I know people didn't understand why I reacted that way, but I never talked about the abuse I experienced.
It took me a long time to come admit that I was a mentally abusive relationship that it was also physically abusive. I choose not to discuss details publicly and that is my choice. I know many attempt to force the conversation, it isn't to help me heal, but to take advantage of the situation. And those trying to know more I feel are attempting to break me; the behavior is an ugly pattern for some. Which I know is why I struggle in any sort of relationship and have anxiety in social spaces. The abuse extends out into community by predators like this who manipulate others- such as I should be able to visit family, friends and community members without this person's name be brought into a conversation, which would happen a lot. I use to often just respond with a "what a weirdo" because I wasn't comfortable sharing my story. In that moment, I decided to take that power away that attempted to have by being more vocal and I shared on my social media for this person to stop harassing me. Naturally, I had a few people try to inbox me about it in form of an attack or criticize me. What I didn't expect is others who were also abused, harassed, and/or stalked contact me as well. So here I was trying to heal myself but having to be supportive to others. Sadly, the abuser still frequents my family's business establishment- which at this point, is clearly incredibly inappropriate and there is silence by many. I shouldn't have to exploit the abuse and relive the pain I faced to receive respect in wishes that this person just stops making any contact with me or my family. And, I wish others would respect my wishes by stop bringing it up to me- they do not realize they are perpetuating harm as well. Yet again, I do not have control of others, I cannot always control situations, but I have a choice in how I respond. And I will never regret coming forward that I am a survivor, though the details are not for others to know nor do I wish to relive them either.
I didn't expect it would take 20 years to share some of my story, and it only happened due to the continued unwanted contact/stalking taking place. I do hope though by the honesty I have shared, that it will help others to get out of their abusive situations. I am thankful that the frequent nightmares which caused insomnia have subsided after all this time. If I could wish away those experiences, I would, however, it most certainly has helped me be a better human- especially in a world where technology has created it so much easier for abusers to harm others. It helps me take pause, where so many are easily swept into frenzies since it's so much easier to feast on negative energy versus creating positive energies. Without a doubt, my experiences as a child, teenager, and young woman has molded my artwork and my advocacy. I want to ensure we are celebrated and respected as Indigenous women by all, including ourselves. It has taken so much time to love myself, and I want to be sure that others can do the same. While some find what I do mediocre, once again, if my work can be a catalyst for change, I will do what I can within my capacity. Which is an important lesson in itself. For so long, I have given so much energy protecting others that I wasn't protecting myself. It's taken so much time to find balance.
Amongst that, it has been a challenging year career wise in terms of making a livable wage, though the work has not stopped. I still contribute to nonprofits, I volunteer time/advice/knowledge, I am continually developing the small micro business Zazegaa Designs, I am pleasantly surprised at my ability to do digital graphics slowly. Ultimately though, I really turned my time to helping my children as they homeschooled last spring, and help them transition back into school. It hasn't been easy by any means. Thankfully we went with our gut after some professional advice that discouraged us to transfer our child out of the school that was an unhealthy environment for her. She is only a few weeks into the new alternative school and thriving with the new support system. As suicide and mental health issues continue to escalate, it only has become a bigger challenge to find what she needs. I do believe we have her on a better path now. So with that, the vision board I have created is not only for myself but how to help one another in our home as we continue to survive during this pandemic.
I am excited as I am developing my vision board, I already have some of it taking place. Soon, some of my artwork will be up on a billboard for hundreds, if not thousands to see. I hope the work is inspiring and well received. Although, it is about the pandemic and making choices to keep ourselves as well as community safe. So there will be naturally criticisms as well. I just wrapped up a commission and really enjoyed utilizing the new found skills of digital art. I began exploring the world of art; I wanted to work as a curator, but as life would have it, I didn't find the guidance I was seeking long ago, but never gave up that hope. With that said, I am a guest curator and details will come soon. I do have to say that the show is though I hope to be very uplifting is also emotional, and having me process other traumas experienced in my life. I didn't realize how much it would impact me until I began working on some thoughts before we make the announcement. It will be good for me and it will be good for others. Art is an integral part of healing in my life, and so I am thankful that I have so many ways to express myself. I do have to admit the micro business, as fun as it is, I yearn to be in the studio experimenting, painting, and building. There is something important of that fluidity and access to full creative expression versus wondering if something will sell.
With that all this being shared, it is time to take a break, and back to working. So much more to come.
I want to continue to harness good energy, I will continue to walk away from negative energy.
I want light and love to be a constant in my life. I want that for others as well.
Stay safe and stay healthy.
Please get vaccinated and get boosters.
Encourage others to do the same.
Please continue to practice good hygiene, wear masks in crowded spaces, be honest about health, and get tested regularly.
Peace and love to all.
Happy New Year
La Bonne Année
Several hours ago, I had learned that the President of the United States, President Joe Biden, has declared October 11, 2021 as Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time in history, along with restoring protections of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts. Ecstatically I shared the news, while at the same time, there was a mix of emotions. Columbus Day, or also known as Discovery Day, has not been repealed. And though this news is met with joy, there is yet still pause, because there is so much work to do. I hope in the near future, we will have those changes created to abolish Columbus Day, and to replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day.
As this information came to me, processing it... I definitely hit memory lane. I immediately thought of my daughters who both have advocated for this, along with correcting how history was presented in their schools. My eldest, now a senior in high school, had voiced her concerns with educators, sharing the experiences with me as well. Her younger sister, an 8th grade student, was often listening, and absorbing that energy her sister had to be not only a voice for themselves, but for others.
I recall when my eldest was in elementary school, coming home with an "art collage project" where it was a ship in the ocean. It was for a Christopher Columbus project where they painted an ocean then, pasting a ship made of construction paper over it. When she got into our vehicle, as her little sister was buckled into her car seat, the eldest says quietly, "mama, can I throw this away?" I glance at it, and say, why do you want to throw it away. She says how she didn't like doing the project, and didn't like that people called Columbus a hero, nor did he discover what is now known as the Americas. I sighed, saddened that she was put in this position.
I thought back to my own experience in elementary school, which was on Turtle Mountain reservation, and thought how weird it was even then that we celebrated Columbus. I didn't even need history books or others to tell me the damage he caused our Indigenous peoples, although, as I got older and did my own research, it was quite horrific to know how horrible this human was. I will say my school that I attended at that time was transitioning from Catholic nuns being our educators; I do not know if that had anything to do with how history was presented to us as children. I eventually was able to transfer schools, and there was a noticeable difference. (Even then I was also advocating for my own education.) So, going back to my child, after listening to what she had to say, I carefully said that yes, if she feels that strongly, she can throw the work away. But, I didn't stop the conversation, I had stated when she is in those positions in the future, to use her voice. Don't be afraid to talk to the teachers, and if needed, seek another adult to talk to such as the principal. What I hadn't realized, was our youngest was absorbing that conversation, and learning how to also use her voice.
This had taken place as I began to pursuit my career in the arts, though, I had been doing some independent advocacy work prior to, this moment really help create a stronger development of my art work along with knowing the importance to be that squeaky wheel as some called me. I understood that my artwork can serve communities in so many ways. I believe creating artwork is therapeutic and inspirational. I was already celebrating my children in my paintings, but I began widening the audiences and expanding the conversations.
Years had gone by, our youngest was now in elementary school. From that moment where our eldest had declared her discomfort of how history was being presented, we ensured we talked to the teachers at the meet & greets. Some appreciated the conversations, asked for help, educated themselves, others, well, it would be met with resistance. When we were at a Parent Teacher Conference, we were looking through papers of our daughters... and we came across this one paper that caught my attention immediately. She had written it earlier that spring, when she was in first grade, doing an introduction of herself to her second grade teacher. I was pleasantly surprised to see what it had contained. The last statement was that she does not celebrate Columbus. I found it amazing how she held on to that conversation her sister and I had years ago, and learned how to be vocal when necessary. (This goes for a lot of experiences they both experience in schools and other spaces.
Over the years, we as a family and individuals, had many conversations with others, whether on social media, in public spaces, in our homes, with friends, families, meetings, and so on, the importance of Indigenous Visibility as well as sharing the truth of the horrors created by Columbus. Yes the conversations can be difficult, there is a lot of emotional labor along with time. I often call this seed planting, creating those conversations, giving information, sharing those ideas, and watch them grow. My artwork is often inspired by what I have observed and experienced, which often is including my daughters, and my hopes is that my artwork also inspires others to join the efforts we all are participating in. Change for the betterment of society.
This particular conversation of Indigenous Peoples Day has been taking place for so long, and I'm glad we are one small part of continuing on the conversations and acting on them to contribute to a wider effort led by hundreds, if not thousands of people collectively. I am so thankful for all those who have done their part to keep pushing this forward; and the work will continue. I think back to the people I've spoken to in addition to educators, whether they're government officials, which includes Senator Bernie Sanders and U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaaland, non-profits, influencers, sincere allies, individuals, loved ones, not so loved ones (haha)- and its amazing to know how many are listening. I also think back to my former students when I worked with the Artist in the Classroom program, knowing the impact being made in those spaces as well.
Two years ago, we were finally able to have our community proclaim Indigenous Peoples Day, it was once again a joyous moment. That summer, once again, our youngest daughter bravely stood before the city council, requesting this change alongside many others. She represented not only herself, but her family, friends and community, through the inspiration of her older sister. I do want to reiterate, we are not the only ones who have put in a lot of effort in creating these changes, but I want to share a small glimpse into the work that has been done by one small family, for an incredibly long time.
And though, I am thankful for this proclamation, there is so much work to do in terms of representation and reparations for our Indigenous Peoples. So, take it in this historical milestone, but acknowledge there is so much more work to be done. (I do not mean that Indigenous people should be obligated to put in financial, emotional and spiritual labor for events on Indigenous Peoples Day unless they truly want to, as I see that we are often demanded or expected to. And I hope people do not criticize Indigenous people by assuming they aren't doing the work... I've observed this for many years, and that defeats the work we are doing.) There is room for everyone to do what they can, within their capacity, and please know that it makes changes.
Anyway, I can keep talking about this... but this mama is a bit exhausted. It's Fri-yay, time to spend time with my loved ones. Thank you everyone being inspired, and creating inspiration.
It is spring.
And this particular spring, had a particular significance. An incredible significance, filled with gratitude.
This particular Anishinaabe new year seems to take on a new role, the optimism is present but I am cautious with it. As Anishinaabe, we believe the east is where we come from, we began our journey from the stars to become physically present here on earth. We begin our journey with gifts, that of which includes the sacred gift of Asema, or tobacco, to share our gratitude.
This past year has been hard on so many of us around the world. So as the thawing of Aki begins here where I live along the Red River with my family, ready to I start anew, ready to move forward- here I am, getting my second Pfizer vaccination on the first day of spring, in hopes it will provide protection not only for me, but for my family, and for the communities I am part of. A lot of emotion came through me, as a child I once was hospitalized for a dangerous virus which infected me, and there were no vaccinations until 20 years later, upon the birth of my first child. Memories overwhelmed as I remember the moments of the sickness, fear and isolation. It is a blessing we have come so far in our sciences, for which I am incredibly thankful for.
There’s a bittersweet beginning to this new year, we have lost so much, yet perhaps we if we haven’t grown in the hardships that we’re bestowed onto us yet, that maybe now in this moment we are ready to do that now as the earth begins to warm and life begins to reawaken. My seedings have quickly sprouted, indicating that they too are ready for new life just as much as we are.
I hear the phrase, "ready to get back to normal." However, I wonder if we ever had a "normal," as it seems it was more about comfort and familiarity. We maybe have lived a little too confidently, and the pandemic exposed the true vulnerability of the world. Though some have chosen to ignore a global epiphany, many have seen the importance of one another, that we all carry social capital.
I am incredibly thankful for those who worked so hard to keep everyone safe, informed, sacrificing so much this year by isolating, and those supportive to one another. The pandemic isn’t over, so we must continue our due diligence. Provide accurate information, continue with mask wearing, practice social distancing, proper hygiene, stay home when sick, and so forth. We will move forward fast, grow faster, if we are actively supportive and compliant with such basic steps. While we may have our vaccines, there are people who do not have the privilege nor access to this vaccine. That includes our littles.
I do not know what is in store for me in my career, as the trajectory continually is molded as our environment shifts. Career plans are being altered and adapting for feasibility. There is an unknown as a creative person right now, but I continue to create in the various mediums that I work with. Despite the hardships, it has been also exciting in the sense of exploration as well.
I am happily welcoming in this new year with gratitude and humility.
Great each sunrise with a song of gratitude.
BooZhoo, Aniin, friends, art enthusiasts and curious minds.
2020 is coming to a close, and I welcome it greatly, like many. The beginning of the year began turbulent yet had promise. I was fortunate to visit Washington, D.C. for the first Native Arts and Culture Summit. It was exciting and a blessing to be in a space of like minded creatives. Little did I know that at that time, the COVID-19 had been introduced to the soil on Turtle Island, or North America. Quickly, the world was flipped upside down for all of us. My thoughts and ideas for growing within the arts were tucked away, as I needed to focus on the well-being of my family.
At the beginning of 2020, I was also able to create beautiful work by collaborating with a dear friend, mentor and Laguna Pueblo metalsmith Pat Pruitt. The set was unique and one of a kind limited edition. We hope to collaborate in the near future. The experience and challenge reaffirmed that I would like to continue a path of merging designs from painting and utilize technology to create unique pieces. More Indigenous artists are empowered to create micro-businesses or more, allowing us to have control of how we are represented while creating sustainability.
Well, we would like to hope I suppose. 2020 has been a challenge for many small businesses, whether it is starting a new small business, expanding a small business or frankly, being sustainable. While PPP loans were made available, not everyone was approved of them. Self employment in the arts was minimal. However, I was very thankful for organizations like First Peoples Fund, NDN Collective, The Soze Foundation, and the North Dakota Arts Council which their grants were able to offset costs to invest in my arts business.
I recently was able to invest in a laser cutter to further my line "Zazegaa Designs by Hillary Kempenich." The line includes jewelry, clothing and home goods, which I integrated into my family shared Etsy page. (Kempenich Studios) Originally, I was hoping to have work carried in boutiques, however with the pandemic creating shut downs, I have been limited in expanding the line for now. I am eager to advance my experience with this technology to utilize also for art installations.
I do have work that can be found at Watermark Art Center in Bemidji, MN and at the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, MN that is available for purchase.
Due to the pandemic, most of my schedule for 2020 was shut down. Originally shows and markets were postponed but we have not been able to reopen venues safely. I am thankful for fellow artists helping one another out, whether its words of encouragement, positive word of mouth, or sharing opportunities. Two of my recent works are now a part of the third Bring Her Home at the All My Relations art gallery in Minneapolis, MN. The show will be made available online to ensure safety for viewers.
Like many across the world, we have lost so much- sense of self, security, and stability. Every day we appreciate the air in our lungs and we have been able to maintain a healthy home, especially as my husband works in healthcare. We lost friends and acquaintances, and have watched our loved ones lose family. It has been a helpless feeling. We try to accept what we cannot change, while being responsible by isolating in our home as much as possible, while using masks when we leave. It is simply the least we can do for others and for ourselves in a world of extreme chaos.
With that, I wish everyone well. Blessings and good energy to all.
It just occurred to me that I haven't blogged in almost a year!
It has been a whirlwind of a year, and I don't see things slowing down. As I come to my third year at SWAIA's Indian Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, it's awesome to reflect on where I have been and where I am going. First of all, I would like to announce that my youngest daughter will be joining the SWAIA Family as well with a Youth Fellowship. I am very proud of her ambition.
I wrapped up the Intercultural Leadership Institute Fellowship that introduced me to new and familiar experiences, fellows allowed my family to grow, connections were made- and it allowed a lot of personal and professional growth in ways that I had not anticipated. In that time, I also completed the NALAC Advocacy Leadership Fellowship as well. With NALAC's ALI, I was given tools and guidance to help me advocate for the arts, and advocate for inclusion in the Arts.
In my college career, and now during my pursuit of my professional career, I have found how underrepresented and misrepresented Indigenous and People of Color are in the Arts. It is not much different than any other career force. I am challenged by the inequity and lack of opportunity for people like myself. And I find myself continually asking, how can I help others and myself? This past years experiences have allowed me to further explore this question, and find direction. As a creative, I would like to continue to pursuit my work as an artist, however, it is also important that I play a role in finding others who wish to support the arts.
ARTIVISM: Activism + Art
As I continually work to evolve my work, the path that I am on was unintentional. I have been identified by others as an activist, which I felt conflicted with, and eventually embraced. Whether it was in a college course, or a viewer looking at my work right now, I find that I am told that my work is not "native enough," or "too political." I do not intend for my work to be interpreted to be anything except to be my truth, and perhaps the truth for others. Often, Indigenous people do not have a platform to tell their stories where others take the time to listen. I feel that I have an opportunity to create dialogue that may not otherwise be there. While time from time I have a viewer looking at my work does not seem to understand it, nor take a moment to open their minds to other's perspectives, generally I do feel that there is an audience paying attention. I may not change a person, however, to provoke thought and conversation is inspiring and motivating.
Paintings by Hillary Kempenich
Currently, a large collection of my work can be viewed at the Sioux Museum at the Journey Museum and Learning Center in Rapid City, SD. The work will be available on display now through September 28, 2018. All works are available for sale.
Bring Her Home
Bring Her Home exhibition at Gizhiigin Arts Incubator, 701 E. Jefferson Ave., Mahnomen, Minnesota 56557. A collection of artworks by several artists, brought together to reflect and respond to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic. Works are on display now through August 29, 2018. Opening Reception is August 2nd, 4:30 to 7:30
SWAIA 97th Annual Indian Market
In third appearance at SWAIA, Hillary will be joined with her daughter Niska Kempenich. Hillary has work available in SWAIA's Gala and Auction, SWAIA's IM: Edge Contemporary Show and Indian Market booth. Booth number is LIN W 741.
For further details on SWAIA events, please go to: www.swaia.org
Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date!
BooZhoo! Greetings! Aniin! Welcome!
The leaves are falling again, the air is crisp, and I have wrapped up another busy season. As I conclude this recent 'quarter,' I smile. When I reflect upon the last 5-6 months, I certainly find myself conflicted with feelings. I am happy for what I've experienced. Despite experiences including loss, frustration, adversity, I am joyous, I am grateful for what the Creator has bestowed upon me. I was reminded how fragile our worlds are, yet that fragility creates strength and resilience. We find what is inside us as the outside world tries to break us down with anger, disrespect and ignorance.
I fell upon the title of this blog through a peer, James Vukelich, who is a fellow Shinob, a fellow Anishinaabe, who puts his love, time and energy into the revitalization of our Ojibwe languages. As I was checking in on the daily word, I thought to myself, "how fitting."
During the summer months, many find themselves flocking to the lakes, rivers, and vacations. Unfortunately, as usual, I found myself far busier this summer than I anticipated. I had kicked off with starting here in Grand Forks, North Dakota at the Arts on the Red, and finishing this busy season in San Francisco, California at the Social Impact Markets- SOCAP17 Summit. Yet despite the busy, I greatly enjoyed it. I have not experienced more travel, people, learning and growth than I have in this last year than I can recall.
I am making time for self care when possible, which includes maintaining and reconnecting with my roots, my Indigenous roots, my cultural identity. I have been making it a priority to listen to my original languages lost along the way of adulthood, I continue to get my hands dirty with soil, working on traditional arts, regalia making. I do these things for my family and myself. I find it creates balance in my work, home life, philanthropy and goal developing.
I have observed as technology advances, many, including myself are beginning to acknowledge we are missing basics of nature in our lives. During this recent growth spurt of mine, I find myself cultivating ideas to connect myself back to the land and people; hoping that this can create a trickle effect within and beyond my community. I have found my more introverted self, pushing boundaries, calling people up, both familiar and strangers, asking to be within their presence. Soon, I was enriched with company, new experiences, and my family at my side.
Over the summer, we had an amazing opportunity to travel to Red Lake, MN to visit Wayne Valliere, who was building a traditional Birchbark canoe, which is a lost art. It was amazing to take items we may over look in today's modern world, and create such a beautiful piece of functional art. Its acts like this that keep me moving forward. As we continue in this world of innovation, we need to look back at methods such as creating this canoe. It's amazing how the Creator provides what we need, and yet I'm saddened how we take this for granted. I hope to better build my own practices, so that these skills can get passed down to many more generations.
As I continue this journey of mine, where I hope to find balance in today's world, I struggle. I believe in the unity of respecting & uplifting one another's differences, this needs to be done tactfully and with respect. I am so amazed by the abundance in diversity the world has. There is so much beauty within each of us, we all have so much to contribute to this world. As I continue to work towards better understanding, mutual respect, celebration of one another, and helping one another, I feel those who I love and respect, may not reciprocate those feelings. I find myself welcoming the fall and winter, where I can reflect upon the words and actions, or lack there of. I see that this is an opportune moment in which I will learn to navigate, utilizing the patience I have developed through the many diversions, obstacles, and conflict I have come across in my 36 years of living. So now, as I retreat back into my studio space to prepare for an upcoming show in the Spring, as well as conclude a fellowship, I look forward to what is yet to come. My joy is that I believe in you, and I believe in me. We are all in this together.
BooZhoo! Aniin! Mino giizighad! (Greetings! Welcome! It's a Good Day!)
Well, it's August and hard to believe that half the year has already come and gone. There was much growth personally and within my career development. There's been tears of happiness, frustration, sadness and perseverance.
I began the year accepting the first Intercultural Leadership Institute Fellowship. This wonderful program is intended for those working within the Arts sector.
"The first cohort of the Intercultural Leadership Institute is a collaborative program of Alternate ROOTS, First Peoples Fund, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) and PA’I Foundation.
The Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI) is a year-long rigorous personal and leadership development program for artists, culture bearers and other arts professionals."
I am blessed with connecting with so many forward thinking, like minded artist professionals. As a full time studio artist trying to pursue personal and career goals, there can be an isolated feeling. With the ILI Fellows, I have been reassured that I am not alone.
To further my career development, I have had the honor to attend the Social Innovation Summit and the first Springboard for the Arts Train the Trainer Intensive (Work Of Art + Community Development). These were scholarships were through the Bush Foundation, and I'm happy to announce in continuation of this process, I will also be attending the SOCAP17, Social Capital Markets in San Fransisco. I am truly appreciative of the Bush Foundation as well as the many others who have believed in my mission.
It was not long ago I had felt lost, unsure where to begin in moving forward. These workshops, conventions and fellowships are life changing.
Next week I will embark on my third trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico for the We Are The Seeds in the Railyard on August 17 & 18, and end the weekend with SWAIA Indian Market on August 19 & 20th. I enjoy my time in Santa Fe, it is wonderful to have a large audience in which I can share stories as a Modern Day Storyteller with my art as well as absorb creativity from everything under, above and around me.
My artwork has slowly been developing, as time is completely borrowed. I have broken from limitations that I may have placed on myself due to assumptions of what is accepted, and continually learning new methods as well as integrating traditional arts.
I have been thinking a lot about finding hope and value. How we can find that hope, as individuals and as a community on our journey through life?
There is no word in our Ojibwe language for my profession. In the English language I would identify as an artist, aadizookewinini is what we say, Which means Storyteller.
My childhood was very awkward, I was very awkward, I’m still awkward. There are moments when I feel as if I walk this world with only a small amount of companionship, which is my spouse and children. It won't be long before my children will be off to walk on a separate path from me, but I know that we will always be parallel to one another and I take comfort in that.
As I continue to discover who I am, I have chosen to embrace the perpetual clumsy awkward person that I am. It allows me to remain hopeful on this journey that we share together.
I have utilized paintbrushes, small video, digital images, poetry and other objects as tools to tell my story and also to share the stories of others. We tell our stories in many ways, this is one of many tools I’ve embraced. How do you share your story?
Nurturing our passions, our gifts and our talents allow us to grow. Finding value within ourselves is terribly important, but also to have a balance with that. Be willing to learn. Value is a forgotten idea it seems. We don't seem to value our neighbors, value education, value diversity, etc. We can find value even with those we don't agree with... If we choose to. There are times we come across people and situations that are not ideal. This is when we need to assess situations, figure out how to respond. What can we do to make a difference? How can we leave a positive mark in the world? Can we inspire others? When we share with others, that allows positive growth in within ourselves, our homes & communities.
I take pride in my work, in what I do. Art is like a mirror of who we are, the mirror is a reflection of what is deep inside us. How we react to art is an opportunity to challenge ourselves to grow. I have spent the last several months teaching young beautiful minds a small fraction of art.
Art is pain, Art is love, love is awkward.
Art is healing, art is observations, art is experiences.
The story is Art. Living with hope is Art.
The impact of art is under appreciated. Everything in our lives has been touched by an artist in some way or another. It saddens me to hear that the Arts are going to be taking such a large direct hit by an administration that seems to have lost value in the common person. Art is an amazing investment in our national economy. It accounts for 4.2% of the Nations annual GDP, it creates jobs, over 4.7 million workers. It also creates such a dynamic platform for communities. As I grow my career, I have realized how much I under valued arts... It has such an impact on all of us.
My daughter shared her "Fortune" the other day where it said, "With Music, you must think with your heart and feel with your mind." I'm not sure where I'm going with this at the moment... but a lot of thought is running through my heart and lots of feelings in my mind...
I do ask you for this, to understand the fears, worries and hopes of one another.
I sit here and try to think rationally through things.
My health, my child's health... under attack. We both have pre -existing conditions.
My livelihood, my career in art... under attack.
The safety of women, both young and old... under attack. The Violence against Women Act is to be defunded...
The education for my children, our children... under attack. You know, Grizzlies in Schools...
The food and water for my family, for our society... under attack. Water is Life. Defend the Sacred.
The ability to soundly find retirement after working hard for decades... under attack.
This is just a short list.
I know some may think this is an exaggeration, but it is real to ME. It is real to my children. Real to many friends, family and fellow citizens. Empathy may be difficult for some, but being real and honest is what I prefer.
If you don't agree with me, my love and faith remains. Let's be supportive. Even if we don't see eye to eye.
I know that we all can work together. I am hopeful, I believe we will persevere.
For those that feel the same, let's work together and be one another's light.
Please take time to support the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts in Action, National Endowment for Humanities and Public Broadcasting.