Rachel Martin: “Believe the Rumors” – Nina Johnson Gallery, Miami

Rachel Martin, Hú áwé awsikóo (that one knows), 2023, Colored pencil and graphite on paper, 27.5 x 23.5 in.
Art Martin Cid Magazine
Art Martin Cid Magazine

Nina Johnson is pleased to present BELIEVE THE RUMORS, a solo exhibition of new and existing works on paper by multi-disciplinary Tlingít artist Rachel Martin. Opening March 14th in the Upstairs Gallery, the exhibition is comprised of various works that individually serve as short stories, coming together to create a larger celebration of Indigenous resistance, intersectional feminism, and the healing strength of both matriarchal and femme energy. 

Based in New York, Martin grew up between Southern California and the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana. Drawing heavily on traditional Northwest Coast iconography, she often merges this imagery with those of modern matriarchal figures, as well as fish and animals, to explore themes of today while honoring the oral history of Indigenous people, specifically those of her family’s homeland in Alaska, that has been passed down from generation to generation. With BELIEVE THE RUMORS the artist brings together a culmination of references from her past three years of work across ideas of vulnerability, strength, tenderness, fierceness, the femme, and Indigenous sovereignty. Martin is highly aware of the intersections of her own identity—in this exhibition she seeks to honor the work of ancestors through her own voice, and interpret the art forms of the Northwest Coast through her intersectional perspectives as a woman, as someone of indigenous heritage, and as someone with deep ties to the West Coast, and currently living in New York City. 

BELIEVE THE RUMORS features sixteen colored pencil and graphite works on paper. Upon entry into the gallery, works in hues of pink are placed alongside THIS TAKES GUTS (2023); a work depicting pink nails and braided seal guts in reference to Indigenous cultural knowledge and access to cultural foods as a signifier of wealth and abundance. Nails are a common motif in Martin’s work speaking to femme intuition and contemporary forms of beauty. While the plaited seal guts may be an unfamiliar food to many, they represent feelings of self-determination and food sovereignty. Martin uses the color pink to pay homage to  ‘flesh, guts, and the insides of the body’ and in opposition to Eurocentric gendered ideas of the color pink. 

With BELIEVE THE RUMORS (2023), the artist tells the story of “Whisper Networks,” through which women pass rumors and information to protect themselves from men in the community who cause harm. This form of communication is often reduced to the word ‘gossip’ by patriarchal forces, but is very much a safeguard that has served women throughout history. This work is drawn with red and white colored pencil: red being a color associated with a call to action, with the active white lines signifying the electricity and energy that accompany perseverance. In an additional work titled BEEN READY(2023), Martin uses collages to weave together Indigenous forms of performance and masks that reference the Tlingit spirit world. This collage holds an urgency but also a playfulness as it depicts a tongue and a body; the body is in perfect running position for long running resistance and the contrasted tongue suggest a lighthearted competition. For Martin, collages are a way of making fragments of pieces come together to create a very strong ‘whole.’

“I love playing with the concepts of formline design in humorous and feminine ways that still hold strength and resilience in the same way that traditional work does,” said Rachel Martin. “I love telling stories through my voice that resonate with a wide audience that may or may not be familiar with formline, but also with  an Indigenous audience who can see themselves and their stories in my work. I want to encourage a younger generation of Indigenous artists to see themselves as a contributing part of our living art forms.”

BELIEVE THE RUMORS is on view through April 27th, 2024.

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *