Spirit Hawk Eye: A Celebration of American Native Culture

14 March – 1 November 2015

Celebrating contemporary Native American culture, ‘Spirit Hawk Eye’ is a series of portraits by photographer Heidi Laughton that highlight the present-day customs of the Native peoples of California, Arizona, and New Mexico.  These stunning images honour the spiritual, artistic, and enduring heritage of diverse Native American tribal communities.

‘Spirit Hawk Eye’ is a project celebrating contemporary Native American Indian culture through photographic portraiture using medium and large format film cameras (no digital).  Revealing aspects of present-day Native cultural practices and lifestyles, these arresting black-and-white images portray contemporary Native peoples – with a focus on the Southwest – including Navajo, Chumash, Paiute, Zuni, Hopi, Comanche, Iowa, and Apache.  Each portrait is displayed with personal anecdotes of each individual, explaining the traditions and ways of life that are important to them.  Launched in 2013 at the Talisman Art Gallery in Bergamot Arts Center, Santa Monica, ‘Spirit Hawk Eye’ celebrates the colourful, reverent, spiritual, artistic, and enduring elements of tribal communities.

As Heidi Laughton comments, ‘I was looking to produce a photo story… which concentrated on the positive aspects of an extremely diverse and beautiful culture.  I wanted to celebrate the culture in a way which was inspiring for Native youth.  I always believed that the best way to engage viewers so they can relate is by focusing on personal stories.  It’s these details and anecdotes – even though just a small glimpse into these diverse communities – which make the wider learning more memorable.’

‘Spirit Hawk Eye’ will be brought even more vividly alive by the presence at the American Museum of individuals featured in these portraits during a two-week residency in 2015 that will showcase traditional cultural practices and key issues facing America’s Native Peoples today.  These guests will also enrich the American Museum’s education programme by speaking about their culture and history to local school groups.  For general Museum visitors, song and dance performances will also be scheduled, as well as workshops and lectures.