Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist On View at the Smithsonian

Entrance to WalkingStick exhibition with name and landscape painting
WalkingStick's New Mexico Desert (2011) is among her iconic works on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. photo / National Museum of the American Indian
WalkingStick in her studio
Kay WalkingStick in her Easton, Pennsylvania studio. photo / Julia Verderosa
Work by WalkingStick
Tears (1990) is one of the works on display in WalkingStick's career retrospective exhibition. photo / National Museum of the American Indian
January 12, 2016

A new exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, is the first major career retrospective chronicling the artistic journey of emeritus professor of art Kay WalkingStick.

With more than 65 paintings, drawings, small sculptures, notebooks, and diptychs, Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist covers 9,500 square feet and features works from the celebrated Cherokee artist's collection, the museum, and private lenders.

Born in 1935 in Syracuse, New York, WalkingStick has explored her Indian identity in her art throughout her career. An established artist who first taught at Cornell from 1988-90, she returned in 1992 as a full professor, teaching painting and drawing in the Department of Art and retiring to paint full-time in 2005.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically and thematically in five sections, including "Italian Romance," with work inspired by WalkingStick’s time in Italy while teaching at Cornell in Rome, and "Landscape: The Power of Native Place," an ongoing source of fascination for the artist.

Many of her best-known works are in the retrospective, including diptychs pairing abstract and representational painting, the 36-panel Chief Joseph series (1974–76), and landscapes of the American Southwest and ancient Indian sites. The museum has produced a 208-page exhibition catalogue, a short video profile of the artist, and a location-aware app for museum visitors with enhanced audio and visual content.

The exhibition, on display through September 18, opened with a symposium in November, "Seizing the Sky: Redefining American Art." Public programs include a conversation February 6 on contemporary American art and culture with WalkingStick and Jeff Chang, author of Who We Be: The Colorization of America.

By Dan Aloi, Cornell Chronicle