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The Rockwell Museum unveils new Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Gallery
Haudenosaunee, Child’s Beaded Cap, circa 1880-1890, Cotton, wool velvet, glass beads, 5 x 5 in. (12. 7 x 14 cm). Clara S. Peck Fund Purchase. 2017.10.8. The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY.

CORNING, NY.- A new gallery dedicated to Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) art and culture has joined The Rockwell’s permanent collection galleries. Haudenosaunee, which translates to The People of the Longhouse, refers to the six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy – Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Tuscarora, and Mohawk. This new permanent gallery at The Rockwell features a blend of art and objects of material culture of many different Nations, from pre-contact tools to 19th-century clothes, toys, dolls, baskets and bowls, as well as contemporary fine art by artists including Shelley Niro, Peter Jemison and Richard Glazer-Danay.

Curator of Collections, Kirsty Buchanan, worked with Seneca Faithkeeper Peter Jemison, as well as Jonathan Holstein, Native American Scholar, to select and interpret the art and objects that are on view in the new gallery.

“I have been very pleased to collaborate with Peter Jemison and Jonathan Holstein on the curation of this new gallery, and to involve our local Haudenosaunee community in celebrating the unveiling,” said Curator of Collections, Kirsty Buchanan. “We wanted to bring together a blend of historic objects with contemporary works to amplify these important voices and stories, both historic and living,” says Buchanan.

There are nine Haudenosaunee clans: Bear, Wolf, Turtle, Beaver, Heron, Snipe, Hawk, Deer, and Eel. Clan membership is passed down through one’s mother, making the Iroquois a matrilineal society. Haudenosaunee women wielded much power in their communities: they owned the land, determined the Chief, lead the Clans, participated in religious ceremonies, and maintained tribal culture. They influenced the Women’s Suffrage movement in the United States, resulting in the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. Many things in the United States can be traced to the Haudenosaunee culture, including corn cultivation, lacrosse, snow shoes, democratic political theory, and even the governing structure of the U.S. Constitution.

“The Rockwell’s goal is to provoke curiosity, engagement and reflection about art and the American experience. The addition of this gallery is part of our overall strategy to reflect the broad range of experiences, diversity of voices and multitude of perspectives in our community. Ultimately, we want our visitors to see themselves and their experience in the art on view, so we’re pleased to open this new gallery that shares such an important aspect of our regional history and culture,” says Brian Lee Whisenhunt, Executive Director of The Rockwell.

Object Highlights

Haudenosaunee, Cooking Pot, late pre-contact, Earthenware, 4 1/8 4 in. (10.5 11.4 cm). Clara S. Peck Fund Purchase. 2017.10.12. The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY.

This style of earthenware pot was commonly used by the Haudenosaunee prior to European contact. European metal cooking ware eventually replaced traditional pottery vessels. This pot has been blackened by continued use and exposure to fire. The incised designs on the rim and body of the pot are typical of Haudenosaunee ceramic ornamentation of the period.

Haudenosaunee, Child’s Beaded Cap, circa 1880-1890, Cotton, wool velvet, glass beads, 5 x 5 in. (12. 7 x 14 cm). Clara S. Peck Fund Purchase. 2017.10.8. The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY.
Haudenosaunee beadworkers produced many different styles of hats and headbands in the 19th century. Exposure to European styles of dress influenced the evolution of these traditional designs. The decoration and complexity of each work were limited only by the creativity of the artist. Before the availability of glass beads, porcupine quills were used to adorn Haudenosaunee headwear. Glass beads later became valuable trade goods for all Native cultures and are still used by contemporary artists who continue this rich tradition.

Mohawk, Cradleboard/Ga-on-seh, circa 1865, Polychrome wood, twine, 30 x 15 x 13 in. (78.1 x 38.1 x 33 cm). Museum Purchase with Funds Donated by James B. Flaws and Marcia D. Weber and the Clara S. Peck Fund. 2013.5. The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY.
Haudenosaunee infants were swaddled in rigid cradleboards, a common practice among many Native Americans. These cradleboards were noted for their elaborately carved and brightly colored backs which often featured naturalistic design motifs such as birds and flowering plants.

Haudenosaunee, Wooden Bowl/G-jih, circa 1800, Ash burl, 5 x 15 x 14 in. (13.3 x 38.1 x 36.2 cm). Museum Purchase with Funds Donated by James B. Flaws and Marcia D. Weber and the Clara S. Peck Fund. 2013.6.1. The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY.
Wooden utensils such as bowls and ladles were made and used by the Haudenosaunee, a tradition that continued despite the introduction of European metal trade goods. Bowls made from tree burls, rounded outgrowths found on tree trunks, often feature circular figuring in the wood’s grain and are more impervious to liquids.

Richard Glazer-Danay, The Chief is Dead, Long Live the Chief, 2005, Mixed media, plastic, feathers, beads, 13 x 13 x 11 in. (33 x 33 27.9 cm) Gift of Ric Danay and Gayle Glazer. 2017.18. The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY.
Richard Glazer Danay was born in Coney Island, New York to a Jewish mother and a Mohawk father. While growing up, he worked in high-rise construction as an ironworker and served in the US Army Reserve from 1961-1965. Many Mohawk Indians, including most of his relatives, also worked as ironworkers in urban areas like New York City. His family members often wore their hardhats around the house, and Danay used these common symbols of high-rise construction workers as inspiration for many of his works. Danay works as a painter and a sculptor, and often combines both media in the same work. He works with brightly colored paints, glossy enamels, and found objects, which combine Mohawk influences and references to pop and postmodernist art. Danay uses humor, irony, and metaphor to challenge his viewers while critiquing stereotypical attitudes of mainstream society.

Shelley Niro, Then Everyone Got Mad, 2017, Photographic collage, 21 x 15 in. (53.3 x 38.1 cm) Clara S. Peck Fund Purchase. 2017.17. The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY.
Shelley Niro was born in Niagara Falls, New York in 1954 and grew up on the Six Nations Reserve, near Brantford, Ontario, Canada. She is a member of the Turtle Clan. Many of Niro’s works are conceptual, touching on themes of gender imbalance, cultural appropriation, and the importance of cultural influences. She uses the immersion of different mediums to engage her audience with her perspective. To balance heavy themes, Niro’s pieces often use humor and satire to convey social misconceptions about her culture while poking fun at outdated stereotypes and ideas.

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