Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, with Laura Phipps
“My work comes right from a visceral place―deep, deep―as though my roots extend beyond the soles of my feet into sacred soils. Can I take these feelings and attach them to the passerby? To my dying breath, and my last tube of burnt sienna, I will try.” —Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, quoted in Laura Phipps’s catalogue essay, “‘My Roots Extend’: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and the Landscape of Memory,” Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map (2023).
For this very special Tuesday Evenings at the Modern, Whitney Museum of American Art Curator Laura Phipps is in conversation with artist and self-proclaimed cultural arts worker Jaune Quick-to-See Smith about the making of the Modern’s upcoming exhibition, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map, as well as the life, career, and works the exhibition radiantly presents. As curator of the exhibition, which originated at the Whitney, Phipps opens her catalogue essay with a quote by poet Joy Harjo of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation: “Indian art has always arisen out of a need to enlarge on meaning and sense in this universe.” Phipps goes on to state that, “In nearly five decades of artmaking, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith has seized on that need―making tangible obscured histories and elucidating essential questions of humanity’s impact on the earth and its peoples― for her own Indigenous community and for the broader American society forced upon it. Her drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures exist in conversation not only with the art and artists she has encountered but with her own memory and, most importantly, with the legacies and life of the land.”
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith is a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation. She grew up on several other reservations in the Pacific Northwest but always returned to her relations on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation in Montana. She holds a BA in art education from Framingham State College (now Framingham State University) in Massachusetts and an MA in visual arts from the University of New Mexico. In addition, Smith has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art, and the University of New Mexico for her work and outreach to a wide spectrum of audiences. Smith’s roles as artist, teacher, curator, and activist have resulted in hundreds of exhibitions over the course of 50 years, featuring both her work and that of other artists across the United States and in Europe. Most recently, Smith curated The Land Carries Our Ancestors: Contemporary Art by Native Americans, an exhibition highlighting artworks by some fifty living Native artists, which runs September 22, 2023 through January 15, 2024 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Laura Phipps is an associate curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her recent projects include Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map, Around Day’s End: Downtown NYC 1970–1986, Virginia Overton: Sculpture Gardens, Open Plan: Andrea Fraser, and a group show of emerging artists, Flatlands. Phipps has assisted with numerous museum exhibitions including the 2010 Whitney Biennial, Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection, Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, Singular Visions, Wade Guyton OS, Sinister Pop, and Jeff Koons: A Retrospective. She has served on the grant selection committee of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, as a visiting critic for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace and the Smack Mellon Studio Program, and as a guest curator at the Kentler Drawing Center, Brooklyn. Prior to the Whitney, Phipps worked in the curatorial department and director’s office of the Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth. She received her MA in Art History at Hunter College of the City University of New York and a BFA in Studio Art and a BS in Psychology from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.