The Abbe Museum is excited to announce the 2017 Wabanaki Artist Fellows: Donna Brown, Penobscot, Jeremy Frey, Passamaquoddy, and Geo Neptune, Passamaquoddy. These exceptionally creative artists – who through color, language, form, and sound – interpret the past, understand the present, and envision the future for Wabanaki people across the state of Maine. These fellowships are made possible through support from Dawnland, LLC.
“In a time when many sources of direct funding for artists has been reduced or eliminated entirely, the Abbe is proud to provide this kind of grant support for Wabanaki artists to promote and further develop their incredible talents,” said Abbe Museum President and CEO, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko.
All three 2017 Fellows have repeatedly taken top prizes out west; however, traveling long distances to attend the Indian Arts marketplace is often a hardship that prevents more artists from entering. The Fellowships are intended to provide support for travel, lodging, and other costs associated with exhibiting at Indian art markets in Maine and New Mexico. Brown and Frey will attend the 2017 Southwestern Association for Indian Arts Santa Fe Indian Market (SWAIA) in August, and Neptune will attend several of the local markets in addition to SWAIA.
Brown, co-owner of Bangor-based jewelry studio Decontie & Brown, handcrafts jewelry and traditional beadwork made from various metals, semi-precious gemstones, and glass beads.
“The beauty of nature and my culture inspires me on a daily basis. We are fortunate to be from such beautiful territory and I always try to reflect that gratitude in my work. I also gain inspiration from our elders and ancestors. As I learn more about how they adapted to available technology and methods of creating art, it encourages me to try new techniques while complementing modern styles with traditional artwork,” she said.
Frey, who comes from a long line of Native weavers, specializes in ash fancy baskets, a traditional form of Wabanaki weaving. His work has been featured at the Smithsonian, Museum of Art and Design in New York City, and in many other prominent museums around the country.
“Basketry is an art form that I can relate to in many ways. It is a part of my heritage, an art form that connects me to my relatives both living and passed. For me, to weave is a way of honoring my ancestors. However, it is also a way to honor future generation both through my teachings and though my personal carrying on of the art form. My work is always evolving; I try to create a newer and more elaborate version of my work each time I weave,” he said.
Neptune has been making baskets since they were four years old and was awarded the title of Master Basketmaker at the age of twenty by the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, making them the youngest person to ever receive the title.
“I practice my art in my home community of Indian Township. As a Two-Spirit, it is my cultural responsibility to preserve traditions and pass them on to the next generation, which I have focused heavily on in the past and hope to be able to do so again, making traditional art more accessible for all Wabanaki youth,” they said.