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Tacoma Art Museum presents a dazzling visual experience of contemporary Native America
Matika Wilbur, Sky and Talon Duncan (Three Affiliated Tribes of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and San Carlos Apache Tribe), 2014. Digital silver image, 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

TACOMA, WA.- Matika Wilbur, a leading young photographer from the Pacific Northwest (Tulalip and Swinomish Tribes), has traveled more than 60,000 miles in the Western United States over the past year, acquiring extraordinary portraits and remarkable narratives in her quest to visit and photograph people from every federally recognized sovereign Native American tribe (562 at the start of her project, now 566). Project 562 examines the Indian image across socioeconomic and intergenerational spectrums, from tribal to hardcore urban, traditional elders to enduring teens. To date, Wilbur has visited about one-third of the 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States. She has been welcomed into rare experiences, capturing images and voices that have never before been represented.

Tacoma Art Museum presents the inaugural exhibition of Project 562 featuring 40 of Wilbur’s Native American portraits, accompanied by stirring audio narratives from select sitters. Photographic Presence and Contemporary Indians: Matika Wilbur’s Project 562 and related events began May 17 and continue through October 5, 2014.

Wilbur continues in her career to imprint the fine arts scene with scintillating, profound work driven by rare creativity, courage, and relationship for subject. Her provocative work exposes the tenacity and richness of contemporary Native life, and seeks to encourage a shift in consciousness toward Native Americans. What is revealed of Native America in these portraits? What consciousness unfolds from the sitters’ many stories?

“It is said that history is dead and that nature can’t really speak. Viewers of this collection are challenged on those premises,” says Wilbur. “For predominant society, Indians occupy a silent and isolated, covered over, virtually extinct existence, part of the grievous though inevitable eradication of ‘manifest destiny’ and which most abandon to history. But Native America is utterly enduring, alive, and thriving as part of the core concept and reality of America.”

With ever-expanding media coverage, including Lens of the New York Times, Huffington Post, Upworthy, NBC, NPR, BBC, and more than 20 other major media outlets, Project 562 has the arts world and media abuzz with awe. Wilbur connects artistically with contemporary Native Americans and brings their images and realities into the national conversation with her unique and moving presentation. Tremendous Kickstarter funding, a network of savvy Native American volunteer professionals, artists, and leaders, and a multi-media powerhouse packed in her rolling “war pony” of a car have allowed this artist the independence, access, and apparatus to deliver meaningful photography that stands out in the post-modernist visual scene.

“Project 562 provides ample evidence of the diversity and vibrancy of contemporary Native Americans. Only a photographer of Wilbur’s caliber could capture this with such grace and clarity,” says Rock Hushka, Tacoma Art Museum’s Director of Curatorial Administration and Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art.

Project 562 is the only large-scale effort to document contemporary Native culture through interviews, photographs, and the collection of stories. Project 562 will result in books, exhibitions, and curricula that creatively address and remedy historical inaccuracies, stereotypical representations, and the absence of Native American images and voices in mass media and the national consciousness.

Stephanie A. Stebich, Director of Tacoma Art Museum, says “Matika Wilbur’s is a voice we all need and want to hear. As a nation, we are hungry for a paradigm shift around our cultural relationships with indigenous people. Matika Wilbur’s comprehensive and creative work opens the door to a new, genuine understanding of the lives of Native Americans today. We look forward this exhibition and to working with Matika Wilbur in years to come.”

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