OUTCROPPING – Indigenous Art Now At Southampton Arts Center: A Talk With Artists Krystyna Printup, Margaret Jacobs, Leeanna Chipana, & Pauline Leilani Badamo

Currently on view at the Southampton Arts Center is the exhibit “OUTCROPPING – Indigenous Art Now.” The show is a celebration of contemporary Shinnecock Nation artists alongside Indigenous artists from an array of sovereign nations. This exhibition, curated by artist Jeremy Dennis, addresses current Native issues locally and across the county, highlighting shared and individual triumphs and struggles.

We interviewed four of the show’s artists to learn more about their work and the importance of the exhibit.

Krystyna Printup is a Brooklyn based artist, educator, and curator. Her artwork explores her identity as an Indigenous woman as well as the issues surrounding representation of the Native American community. Margaret Jacobs is a metalsmith known for her steel sculpture and powder-coated jewelry. Her work explores the tension and harmony between natural and man-made. Leeanna Chipana’s work mixes classical realism with surrealism, while she is currently working on figurative paintings of contemporary Native women. Pauline Leilani Badamo operates a metalworking shop on Long Island, where she also donates 15 percent of sales to organizations like Operation Splash, Kahea Alliance, and Aina Momoa.

Tell us about your background as an artist and your artistic process.

“Plantain II” by Margaret Jacobs.

Margaret: I am a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. I create steel sculpture, powder-coated jewelry and walnut ink drawings. I find metal is an incredibly versatile material that lends strength and visual weight to my work, but can also be formed so that it is organic and delicate. My work is all fabricated, so I’m cutting out multiple pieces, hot and cold forming, welding, and forging to create my works. The concepts in my work stem from a fusion of ideas that I am exploring: Mohawk Ironworkers and their relationship to steel as a material — the fragility and cyclical complexity of decay and growth in nature — and cultural storytelling elements. My different series combine a visual vocabulary of tools commonly associated with steelwork and medicine plants. Ultimately, I’m exploring the tension and harmony between the natural and man-made, often intermingling unexpected forms, colors, and materials to explore those relationships.

“American Woman” by Leeanna Chipana.

Leeanna: I studied academic drawing and painting at a classical atelier where we studied the human figure from life five days a week, eight hours a day. It was a very intense program. I eventually left to pursue my MFA at the New York Academy of Art. It was here my work took a contemporary turn. I no longer simply painted the figure from life. I used imagination and abstraction in my work. I started to explore my own identity in a more investigative way. My father immigrated here from Peru. He was an indigenous Quechua man living in the Peruvian Andes before he arrived in Lima where he learned how to speak Spanish. His original language was Quechua, the language of the Incas. I grew up with beliefs like animism and prayer to mother earth, Pachamama. At the same time my mother is American and Catholic in faith and I was born here in New York so all of this affected my work. My work often combines the classical composition you might find in a 16th century church mural painting with Incan iconography and contemporary indigenous women. The act of painting for me feels like I am an artisan because there is a lot of craftsmanship and care that goes into each painting. For me the paint is like clay. Right now I am working on a portrait of my friend who is an indigenous woman from Chile and adopted by Italian parents living here on Long Island. So like me she is on what I call an “identity journey.” We are both on a journey of cultural reconnection and acceptance of who we are.

“Kuleana” sculpture by Pauline Leilani Badamo. Photo by RB Collaborative

Pauline: I am primarily a self-taught Indigenous Artist, born in Honolulu and raised on Long Island. While attending UMass Amherst and CUNY Queens College, I took coursework in painting, ceramics, and sculpture. Professionally, I worked as a fabrication welder for a few years and having a background in steel construction and installation has been a great benefit in the creation of my art. While metals are currently my preferred medium, I do love to incorporate textiles, printmaking, and various mediums and processes into my work. My process begins with inspiration from a mixture of visions and from a deep-seated Aloha ‘Aina or love of the land, which includes the land, sea, and sky. My materials of copper, steel, and textiles each have the ability to change due to their environment and represent both the permanence and fragility of nature’s balance. My goal is to always to build community and drive impactful conversations initiated by my creations. My “Kuleana” Sculpture features materials, which were all shaped by hand — the metals take their shape by way of fire and I formed them over my anvil with my various hammers. The copper was etched with chemicals, painted by hand, and both the copper and steel were changed by the outside environment creating both rust and natural patinas. In much of my work, I love to incorporate the natural environment — beside the canoe is a tree sapling fishing net with a few Copper Quahog and oysters shells, formed by fire and made to patina by outdoor exposure and use of chemicals. This fishing net represents the concept of taking only what one needs from the ‘Aina. At the center of the figures are words which express that “Water is Life” in Native Hawaiian and Native New York languages, along with messages of the call for land sovereignty and reparations. As the metals have the ability to change and evolve, so can we, and hopefully learn to create a better future together.

“Chief 2” by Krystyna Printup.

Krystyna: As a member of the Tuscarora Tribe (Turtle Clan) of New York, my paintings are an exploration of Native Americana through my own identity growing up as an Urban Indigenous woman. Presenting to my viewers a collection of gouache paintings that act as a snapshot of my own story in efforts to redefine, reimagined, and bring back to life Indigenous History through a Native lens. Referencing turn of the century photographs, family artifacts, and historical documents for vibrant depictions of both fiction and non-fiction narratives. My signature bold and expressive lines pay homage to what I feel is symbolic to the act of “a beating drum” which is a display of aggression, energy, and unity. The lines are expressive and become a ceremonial act in its own process. My work is about storytelling — whether it’s presenting an immersive interactive installation like “Turtle Island 2021” or my current portraits series “Seeing Red” the work is about inviting the viewer to further a dialogue with what they are viewing.

How did you become involved with the Southampton Art Center’s Exhibit “Outcropping- Indigenous Art Now”?

Leeanna: A friend, who is also an artist, reached out to me via instagram. She had seen Jeremy Dennis’s open call post. Jeremy was curating the show. When I saw that it was on Long Island and featuring Shinnecock artists and open to other indigenous artists I decided to apply. I spoke to Jeremy via email and met him and his mother, Denise Silva-Dennis, at the opening. I later went to Denise’s art opening at Ma’s House, a communal artists space and residency located on the Shinnecock Reservation, and was really moved by her paintings of indigenous figures existing in a state of joy. It’s something I think about often. Jeremy was really wonderful to work with throughout the whole process. He has a kind soul and I felt a special connection with him and all the other artists at the show that I was able to meet. The staff at the Southampton Arts Center were very accommodating and made me feel really welcomed.

Pauline: Starting a few years ago, I had experienced repeated dreams and visions of this image of two people in Honi or the Pacific Island greeting ceremony where two people touch foreheads together and share a breath. The two figures sat upon a canoe and helped bring healing through this Honi Ceremony of collective consciousness. A few months ago, I found the open call from Jeremy Dennis on Instagram, and it was the most serendipitous moment. This exhibit was the perfect opportunity to share my art and it’s important message about the responsibility we share to take care or Malama Ka ‘Aina our environment. It felt like destiny to be able to share the lessons, which can be learned from traditional Indigenous systems of resource management and environmental stewardship to improve our current environmental problems.

Krystyna: Jeremy Dennis and I first met at the opening of “VOICES: Indigenous Storytelling” at Kimmel Windows Gallery at NYU in 2019. We both were exhibiting artists in the group show and shared the promotional flyer with our art presented side-by-side. As fellow artists, especially within the Indigenous community, it is important to continue to support IRL as well as online and provide outlets to help share each other. Jeremy’s expansion from artist to curator was such a natural transition so when he mentioned “Outcropping” to me one day via DM I knew I had to apply. His proposal for the show resonated with my artistic vision, and from our previous experience showcasing together I knew he would be a curator that would carefully select artists that helped present the story of Indigenious art now.

“Sage Protection Pin II” by Margaret Jacobs. Photo by Taylor Robinson

Margaret: I saw the open call for artists and applied to the exhibition. One of the big draws for me was that Jeremy Dennis was curating the show. The fact that an Indigenous photographer was curating an exhibition that featured entirely Indigenous artists was incredibly exciting and made me want to be a part of this meaningful experience.

What has been your biggest takeaway from being involved in this show?

Pauline: My most impactful takeaway has been learning about the amazing work being accomplished by the artists, activists, and generally amazing individuals from the Shinnecock and Indigenous communities locally here on Long Island. This show has provided a space for having critically important conversations about Indigenous sovereignty, reparations, and the celebration of Indigenous Art and Community.  Sharing my art in this exhibit has allowed me the opportunity to share and celebrate Hawaiian culture with the public and it’s connection to Native New York tribal traditions, values, and artistic expression. My hope is that we continue to learn, understand, and share our cultural values with one another as it brings us together in shared goals to improve ourselves and communities. It has been a true honor to share my art and be a part of this incredible exhibit. I would like to thank Curator Jeremy Dennis, Programmer Shane Weeks, and the Southampton Art Center for this opportunity.

“Gatherer” by Krystyna Printup.

Krystyna: Showcasing Indigenious art is very delicate, as our history has been told so many times by colonial words and often displayed as a tool to talk about the past. The biggest takeaway is knowing where and how Indigenious art should be shared and in which context. We are not just craftsmen and makers of traditional objects — we are very much creatives involved in all fields of art marking. We need more non-native curators to highlight Native Arts in a contemporary realm without using us as a platform to showcase their inclusiveness. We do not need exclusiveness but rather space to be presented as equals in the art world. As long as shows like “Outcropping” continue to be curated and platforms to champion Indigenous artists are established, only then will I know we are moving towards a future of true artistic recognition.

Margaret: That we need more of these exhibitions! It’s wonderful to see how the conversation of contemporary native art is shaped when you have an Indigenous curator choosing the works and focusing the discussion.

Leeanna Chipana and Jeremy Dennis. Photo courtesy SAC

Leeanna: I really loved seeing the various types of work at this show. Everything was there — photography, paintings, sculpture to beadwork, textiles and more. I think it’s important indigenous artists continue studying and practicing the mediums their ancestors used. At the same time, I also think it’s important to be open to exploring other mediums for communication and utilize current platforms. I study ancient Peruvian Moche portrait vessels and these are some of the most beautiful portraits I have ever seen. I often think what if our ancestors were never cut off suddenly from creating because of war and colonization? What if they gained access to something like oil paint, photography, or video? What would their aesthetic choices be? This thought process led to my painting, “Mama Ocllo.” When I see a contemporary art show by Indigenous artists I see a lot of opportunities for artists to communicate what they are thinking about and dealing with right now.

The exhibit runs through April 10 at Southampton Arts Center. A closing ceremony, which will feature a presentation from exhibition ancillary programming curatorial associate Shane Weeks, will be held on April 9 at 4 PM.

Jessica Mackin-Cipro


Jessica Mackin-Cipro is an editor and lifestyle writer from the East End of Long Island. She has won NYPA and PCLI awards for journalism and social media. She was previously the Executive Editor of The Independent Newspaper.

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