“Return of the Corn Mothers”

Photos by Todd Pierson
News From Indian Country 11-08

Concha Garcia Allen

The University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, in the Henderson Building at 15 Street and Broadway, on the CU Boulder campus, will host the “Return of the Corn Mothers” – a photo journal exhibition of Southwestern Women, that started October 13, 2008, and will run to January 30, 2009. The opening reception was held October 30th.

The show is based on the Pueblo myth of the Corn Mothers, said to have sung in the essence of creation, including the sacred Kachinas. The exhibition, a 2007 Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute award winner, features multi-cultural and multi-generational women from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, who embody the spirit of the Southwest.

One of the most unique exhibitions to come out of Colorado, the show’s focus is a photo exhibition of women who have earned accolades for community activism and creative endeavors. Each featured woman also recounts in story form her memories of the women who influenced her in her life journey. A documentary clip by C’Rodrigo gives a behind-the-scene account of this three-year project.

 Stella Teller

“This show is about women from 29 to 89 who tell stories that help shape and nurture our country. They represent the circle of life and the continuation of a never-ending story about love and perseverance,” said curator Renee Fajardo-Anstine. Master storyteller Carl Ruby and editor Ed Winograd helped gather and prepare their stories for this exhibition. Arlette Lucero, Chicana muralist, rendered the original art.

Todd Pierson, master photographer, traveled the Southwest to capture these unique women in their home environment. They include world-renowned Isleta Pueblo potter Stella Teller; painter Evelyn Valdez-Martinez, who works with the Tarahumara Indians; Concha Allen, a curandera (healer) from Mexico; Rita Wallace, a famed embroidery artist; and Ami Duncan, a third-generation midwife living in Arizona’s remote Gila Mountains. Pierson’s portraits capture the essence of these women, who are often overlooked by today’s fast-paced world.

Fajardo added, “These women tell their stories and the stories of their own women, who may not be monetarily successful by modern standards, but who are a powerful force that permeates every part of our society on all levels. These are women whose voices we never hear because they speak a language we have forgotten. This is a tribute to those unsung, who have given so much and asked so little.”

Patricia Sigala

The show’s opening reception appropriately coincides with the museum’s annual Day of the Dead opening ceremony on October 30th. This free family event included colorful community altars dedicated to those who have passed on, music by Grupo Quitiplás, traditional food, and an opening blessing by the Azteca storytelling, dance, and music group Chimaltonalli. There was also a meet and greet with several of the exhibition’s featured Corn Mothers, photographer Todd Pierson, and curator Renee Fajardo-Anstine.

The Colorado Folk Arts Council (colofolkarts.org) funded part of the show and will help host a symposium on the exhibition on April 16th at Metro State College in Denver from 10 am - 6 pm at Saint Cajetans.

For more information,
call the University Of Colorado Museum of Natural History at 303-492-6892 or visit http://cumuseum.colorado.edu/. The museum is free, open seven days a week, and the galleries are handicap accessible.