Claremont, Calif. (January 9, 2018)—The artist Edgar Heap of Birds will deliver the Murray Pepper and Vicki Reynolds Pepper Distinguished Visiting Artist Lecture, “Influences, Mentors, Colleagues and Our Homage to this Earth,” on January 23 at Pitzer College. Heap of Birds is a citizen of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma whose art decries the colonization of indigenous lands and expresses Native American claims to sovereignty. His exhibition Edgar Heap of Birds: Defend Sacred Mountains opens on January 20 at the Pitzer College Art Galleries.
Heap of Birds is a multi-media artist whose work includes large-scale drawings, paintings, prints, public art and sculpture. Through these mediums, he addresses issues of Native American history, identity, colonialism, time, modernity and the meaning of art. In his 2015 book Edgar Heap of Birds, Pitzer Professor of Art Bill Anthes writes that the artist likens his art to “sharp rocks”—weapons delivering trenchant critiques of Native Americans’ loss of land, life and autonomy under settler colonialism.
“Edgar Heap of Birds’ works are challenging and important,” Anthes said. “They offer quick and disorienting history lessons and stand as a powerful testimony to the vitality of indigenous knowledge in the contemporary world. Moreover, they embody the idea of art as a critical and activist practice.”
In his role as a visiting artist at Pitzer, Heap of Birds will meet with classes on campus as well as offer an art workshop for Native American students at the Sherman Indian School in Riverside, one of the College’s community partners.
In 2013, Heap of Birds was the first artist-in-residence of Pitzer’s art+environment program, which explored the intersection of the arts and the environment as well as the role of art as an impetus for interdisciplinary inquiry and critical thinking. Heap of Birds’ public art installation at Pitzer, Native Hosts, featured signs that displayed the names of places sacred to the Tongva, indigenous people whose ancestral lands are in Southern California.
During Heap of Birds’ visit this month, the sign recognizing Joat (Mount Baldy) will be rededicated in its new location adjacent to a Native garden of medicinal and ceremonial plants at the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability in a ceremony with members of the local Tongva community, with whom Heap of Birds worked in creating Native Hosts for Pitzer.
Edgar Heap of Birds is a professor of Native American studies at the University of Oklahoma. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution and the Hong Kong Art Center. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation, among other institutions. In 2012, Heap of Birds was recognized as one of 50 of “America’s most accomplished and innovative artists” when he won a United States Artists Ford Fellowship in the visual arts.
A survey of the work of Edgar Heap of Birds can also be viewed at Garis & Hahn art gallery in Los Angeles from February 10 to March 10, 2018.
The annual Pepper Distinguished Visiting Artist Lecture is made possible by the Murray Pepper and Vicki Reynolds Pepper Distinguished Visiting Artists and Scholars Endowed Fund at Pitzer College. Established in 2007, the fund helps bring critically acclaimed artists and scholars to campus to hold seminars, workshops, public talks and one-on-one conversations with students. The fund is named after Trustee Emeritus Murray Pepper and Vicki Reynolds Pepper, long-term supporters of the College and the grandparents of David Pepper ’17 and Morgan Pepper ’12.
The 2018 Murray Pepper and Vicki Reynolds Pepper Distinguished Visiting Artist Lecture with Edgar Heap of Birds will be held on January 23 at 4:15 p.m. in Pitzer’s Benson Auditorium. For more information email [email protected] or visit the Pitzer College Event Calendar.