Indigenous portraits on display at Great Falls Discovery Center

  • Jonathan Perry Aquinnah, Wampanoag, and Leah Hopkins, Narragansett, in Fall River are included in a portrait series on display at the Great Falls Discovery Center. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SARA LYONS

  • Chimaway Lopez, Chumash (California,) was photographed at Amherst College Sanctuary Trail Pond at Amherst College as part of a portrait series of indigenous people on display at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SARA LYONS

  • Caroline Collazo, Nipmuc, photographed at home in Springfield said, "Our Regalia tells a story of our Tribe and Homeland. But within our Hearts is the Story of why we never forget." She is part of a portrait series of indigenous people on display at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SARA LYONS

  • Anthony Melting Tallow, Bo'taan'niis, (Flying Chief), is an enrolled member of the Siksikaitsitapi Blackfoot Nation of Southern Alberta, Canada. Tallow is one of the subjects in a portrait series by Sara Lyons on display at the Great Falls Discovery Center. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SARA LYONS

  • Nayana Marmaras, Iñupiaq-Athabaskan, and Henny Penny (Barnevelder) are two of the people featured in “Vital. Vibrant. Visible: local indigenous identity through portraiture” on display at the Great Falls Discovery Center. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SARA LYONS

  • Denise Sundown, of the Mohawk 6 Nations and Bear Clan, Sheldon Sundown, of the Seneca Nation and Turtle Clan and Sophia Sundown, of the Mohawk 6 Nations and Bear Clan were a part of a portrait series including photos of the 38th Annual UMass Powwow where Sheldon Sundown served as the event MC. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SARA LYON

Staff Writer
Published: 5/16/2019 5:30:32 PM

MONTAGUE — “Vital. Vibrant. Visible: local indigenous identity through portraiture,” a series of portraits of indigenous people will be on display at the Great Falls Discovery Center through May 31.

Curator Rhonda Anderson and photographer Sara Lyons traveled throughout Massachusetts, going to Dorchester, Fall River, Ashburnham, Northfield, Springfield, Chicopee and Amherst to photograph people in their “happy place” as Anderson called it.

The project started in March, creating 29 pieces of 27 people.

Along with each photo is text written and submitted by the subject(s) in the photo.

Lyons said while she researched each person she took portraits of as much as she could to try to “glean their personality,” she wanted to give each person agency by collaborating with them.

“Some of the people are artists and I wanted to be able to create what they visioned and just snapped the photo,” Lyons said. “Others it was more collaborative; my intention was to give folks control. I really appreciated that they entrusted me with taking their image.”

Each person was also asked to write a statement about their portrait.

Anderson, a resident in Colrain, said the idea for the series came about during recent debates about sports mascots, cultural appropriation and racism at the Turners Falls and Mohawk Trail Regional high schools.

“We heard the same refrain over and over – that Native people are invisible, that they are only a part of ‘history’ and that to use their names and images is somehow ‘honoring’ that romanticized image of the ‘Noble Warrior,’” Anderson said. “Statements were made that by removing the offensive imagery and names, the entire story of Native people in the region would be erased. The idea for this installation was born during those contentious meetings.”

She added, “My idea was to facilitate an art installation that brings to light the local Indigenous community that seemed so invisible – to make their faces, their voices and their very human-ness a part of the public consciousness.”

One of the elements she enjoyed in some of the portraits were when the person was laughing.

“There are a few photos of people laughing, they’re not seen as a stoic, but to show we have joy and happiness,” Anderson said.  

A reception will be held Saturday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. followed by the annual Day of Remembrance presented by the Nolumbeka Project, 1 to 3:30 p.m. in the Great Hall at the Great Falls Discovery Center at 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls.

All events are free and open to the public.

This exhibit was commissioned and paid for by Eggtooth Productions for the Radical Interconnectedness Festival last month.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 263.




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