Fall art reception celebrates Haudenosaunee artists

SU Art Museum celebrates Haudenosaunee Art

"Each one Inspired: Haudenosaunee Art Across the Homelands" is an exhibition of 52 contemporary artworks by Indigenous artists.
Published: October 11, 2021
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The first bay of the Syracuse Art Museum showing a range of mediums used by Haudenosaunee artists.

The Syracuse University Art Museum celebrated contemporary Haudenosaunee artists and culture in its fall reception on Oct. 7. The reception was preceded by a conversation between Ethnographic Collections Curator Gwendolyn Saul from the New York State Museum and artist Hayden Haynes, a member of the Onödowa’ga:’ Nation.

Saul said the exhibition was originally planned back in 2019 but was delayed because of the pandemic. 

She said she wanted, “contemporary Haudenosaunee artists to be seen and appreciated by a large audience,” which inspired the traveling exhibition that will be on display through Nov. 19. The “Each One Inspired” exhibition features 52 contemporary artworks by Haudenosaunee artists from all six Haudenosaunee Nations across what is now New York. After its run at SU, the show will travel to other colleges and universities around the state.

The exhibition includes a range of artwork, from boots to beadwork to baskets. Most of the art is colorful and detailed, using bright beads, paint, or fabric to weave complex pieces. There are paintings and wood carvings too, much of the work related to Haudenosaunee stories and history.


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"Hawk" (2018) by Hayden Haynes (member of the Onödowa’ga:’ Nation)

Haynes’ carved antler sculpture Hawk is prominent in one of the first bays. It’s a hawk carved from an antler with intricate feathers and the background hollowed out, leaving detailed shadows on the wall behind it. 

Haynes said although Hawk was more of a challenge in technical skill, most of his art tries to grapple with political issues Indigenous communities face. For him, the most rewarding part of his work is being able to engage with people, “It’s an aesthetic as a way to start conversations,” he said.

The importance of antlers goes back to the Haudenosaunee story of the creation of our world. Two twins were born from Mature Blossom, the daughter of Sky Woman. These supernatural twins are opposites, one is good and created helpful things such as berries, while the other brother created evils things like snakes and thorns. The only two weaknesses of the evil twin were flint and antlers. This history is one of the many reasons Haynes has carved antlers for over 10 years. 

The gallery space devoted to Haudenosaunee artists will allow others to “see the stuff they may never see, and impact younger generations,” Haynes said. Bone carving is still relevant to Haudenosaunee culture as bone combs are used in cleansing ceremonies which help people deal with addiction, depression, and other mental illnesses.

For Haynes, coming to speak at Syracuse was an extra special treat, “I got a very special tie. My firstborn daughter…is actually attending there right now so that’s really special,” Haynes said.


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Foxy Lady (2018) by Samantha Jacobs (Seneca Nation)

Another artist, Samantha Jacobs, from Seneca Nation, had a piece called Foxy Lady on display. They are a pair of silver mukluks, which have embroidered purple flowers and green stems running up the middle which are framed by thick silver and brown fur. She used fox fur, glass beads, and dyed tufted caribou hair to put the piece together.

She said the exhibition is “representative of Haudenosaunee culture and the range of talent,” within. 

About 60 students attended the opening to enjoy the art and gallery space. 

Emily Dittman, associate director of the SU Art Museum, was excited to have people back in the galleries and engaging with art. “It’s been really humbling and fantastic that we’re able to do these things that we are really driven to do as a museum on campus,” she said.

The Each One Inspired exhibition will be available for students to see until Nov. 19.