Area Voices: Blair Treuer, Textile Artist

Jan 9, 2020

Blair Treuer's textile exhibit "Portraits" opens tomorrow night (Friday) at the Watermark Art Center in Bemidji.  A collection of large-scale images depicting her nine children, her husband and herself, her work uses thousands of small pieces of fabric as her pallete.  A kaleidoscope of color illuminating the spirit of each of her subjects, this dreamy, textural, visual experience of an exhibit was born from the unique spiritual journey of Blair and her family.    

...all of my children participate in a traditional Native American ceremony... as part of the offering for that we are obligated to make blankets .. considering that I'm not native, this is the only contribution I could make to their spiritual experience in this ceremony. So I ... threw everything I had into those blankets and I decided to make them pictorial by making each blanket representative of their Native American names.... the images come like a dream and they need to be created... And while I'm creating there's no thought that goes into it.  It is all feeling. So, I try really hard to recreate what I see in my mind ... that's my focus while I'm working and it's not until after the piece is done that I have to ask myself , What is this trying to tell me? What does this mean to me? - Blair Treuer In this segment of Area Voices, learn more about Blair's work - her process, the symbolism within the pieces and how the more she understood the relevance and reverence of her husband's Ojibwe culture, the more she questioned the significance of her own Scandinavian descent.   Describing the symbolism of her self portrait in the exhibit, in which she's surrounded by darkness, nude, except for the pair of antlers on her head,  she says:  ...my self-portrait is the cocktail of both despair and hope that I feel as a mother and a wife in this family and about my purpose in this world. I'm in the dark and naked. I often feel I have nothing to offer my children or my husband. I am of Scandinavian descent but I don't even know what that means to me. I don't have ways-of-being handed down and taughtwith purpose. I don't have things that are known by my people and through my people from ancient times. I don't have spiritual gifts, birth rights to bestow, etc. No tool box. I'm just out here winging it, loaded up on American culture-gas stations, shopping malls, McDonald's. I didn't even know how little I had until I realized my husband had so much. I didn't know how lost I felt until I became aware of how sure-footed my husband and my children are. But I have hope. The Antlers are on top of my head as if to say there is something incredible about me too. I also possess a spectacular gift. I can't see it, but I can feel it as though it's within my very bones, passed down from my ancient tribe, too. And, someday I'll know how to use it and be empowered by it. -Blair Treuer 

There is indeed something incredible about Blair Treuer.  Click on the link to her the whole interview.  "Portraits" will be on exhibit at the Watermark Art Center until March 28.