It sort of goes without saying that one of the goals of the MissElaineous blog is to share the natural beauty, fascinating history, and incredible nature of the UK from an American perspective. After all, it’s mentioned up there in the tagline!
My friend Joanne Prince, however, approaches things from a different direction: for the past thirty years, Jo has sought to introduce the UK to the amazing artwork, vast talent, and rich traditions of Native American artists. Her Rainmaker Gallery is the only dedicated space for contemporary Native American art in Britain, and a visit to Rainmaker in Bristol is always a treat because you never quite know what might catch your eye … or what you might learn in the process.
There are Zuni fetishes: carvings that are viewed as ritual objects and made from beautiful natural material such as stones, shells, and antlers. They are imbued with symbolism, but also serve as miniature works of art. On the other end of the size spectrum, Pendleton blankets offer warmth, vivid colours, and classic designs. They have longed serve to mark rites of passage within native communities.
Jewellery ranges from traditional handcrafted beaded necklaces to ultra-modern anodised titanium earrings and laser etched stainless steel bracelets. I left after one visit with a stunning Zuni silver and turquoise ring that seemed to have been custom made to fit my finger, and it remains one of the few pieces of jewellery that I wear on a regular basis.
Then there are the art exhibitions. Over the years, I have been fortunate to see many of the shows that Jo has expertly and beautifully curated. From Messengers and Sarah Sense’s Weaving Water through to the recent Summer Blues, Jo has provided native artists with a space that allows their voices to be heard loud and clear. She once told me that running Rainmaker wasn’t a job. It was a calling.
Indeed, it only takes a few minutes of speaking with Jo for her passion to come through. She knows the maker of each piece of jewellery, the symbolism behind the fetishes, and can provide a tour through the artwork that combines tribal traditions, the symbolic meaning of patterns and designs, and anecdotes about the artists into a fascinating tapestry.
However, the gallery space is under new ownership, and Rainmaker must move to a new venue. Jo hopes to turn this unexpected closure into an opportunity to give Indigenous art a permanent home. To do so, she needs our help: please consider making a donation so that Rainmaker can continue to flourish, shining a much needed spotlight on this vibrant, creative community.
These images are from the 2018 exhibition: Marla Allison: Painter from the Desert. Please check out Marla’s website for more information about her work.