Jaune Quick-to-See Smith is one of the U.S.’s finest indigenous talents. Coming of age
when Abstract Expressionism with its white male tenor dominated, Smith pushed back
and developed a strong personal vision forged from belonging to two marginalized
groups by birth (female, Native American) and one by choice (non-urban). This timely
and exciting exhibition will be the first solo exhibition of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s
work in her native state of Montana in over a generation. In keeping with the YAM’s
Montana Masters series goals, Smith is a mature, late-career artist with extraordinary
aesthetic, intellectual, and curatorial achievements to her credit. She mines her crossculturalexperience and Salish-Kootenai identity, and spans cultures with powerful,
idiosyncratic results of high aesthetic caliber. The evolution of her lifelong investigations
is a cornerstone of this exhibition. Few Native artists have worked with such alacrity
and aesthetic success between cultures and art worlds. Smith has an international
reputation with a strong, clear body of work; she has earned her leading standing among
women artists and Native American artists while simultaneously aligning both of these
often still marginalized groups more closely with the mainstream art world.
The YAM’s exhibition will examine themes that perennially recur in her work, including
conflict, compassion, peace, the cycle of life, irony, and identity. Smith has always
operated on a cusp—culturally, temporally, aesthetically, and from a gender
perspective—which gives her work an attention-getting vitality, originality, and
relevance. Her role in the shift toward deepening respect for Native American
contemporary art in its own right has been significant. She describes herself as a
“cultural arts worker;” she has credits as a curator, writer, speaker, and leader in the arts.
Smith’s work is at once earthy, vibrant, sophisticated, and compassionate. Nature is
often her impetus, a nature that includes human beings as but one player on the stage.
Her work is cross-cultural, exhibiting a marked preference for working in the grey zones.
Smith’s visual language is vivid, layered, and symbolic, both questioning and creating
American art history. Forms, colors, motifs, and texts spill across her surfaces like
language on a page or a musical score for a culture’s epic story. The work demonstrates
an eclectic, generous acceptance of influences from many sources.