I went to Rose’s latest exhibit at the Wheelwright Museum here in Santa Fe because I need a fresh infusion of her strength. She’s part of a closely knit Native American Family here, and in fact one of the statues in the exhibit is the work of her mother: a Navaho horned dancer with an opening in her stomach that shows Rose as an foetus… And so this daring sculptor is not an outsider. She’s a mother as well as a daughter, and she inserts her own child as a strange dangling connection to the intrepid women warriors she depicts.At the exhibit, about thirty of her works were arranged around a rotunda-like gallery, dimly lit, which made the sculptures looked shrouded, mysterious and even more dangerous. I overheard two women seeking counsel of the curator because they found the work so disturbing.
And disturbing it is. We all know that we are the glue that holds everything together, family, nations, friends. But the warrior questions all these ties, all these necessary priorities. So often, those of us who speak out as feminists find we have lost our comfortable (or more or less comfortable) places in our society, in our families. And so I understood although I did not share these women’s confusion and also understood why the adjacent Native American jewelry gallery was much better attended. Necklaces don’t hurt, bracelets don’t undermine the status quo.
I have one of Rose’s warrior women on guard in the corner of my bedroom.
This young artist is extraordinary in other ways. Fearful of cultural appropriation, some Native American artists shun the largely East Coast art schools that give white artists their professional start. Not so Rose. She left her pueblo to go to the Rhode Island School of Design where she began to use materials available to her there that expanded the range of her work. She is also fascinated by cars and knows a god deal about what goes on under the hood.
Cars, and babies, don’t exist in the limited arena we feminists can claim as ours. Few of us know how to fix the cars we ride around in—and in fact they are usually unfixable now, computer defined and computer driven. And I know first-hand how tough it is to combine radical ideas with child-raising. Talk about glue!But here we have Rose Simpson taking on cars and babies and reveling in her unique vision.
May we all be so inspired!