My present paintings of mountains and sea are vistas of memory—our America the beautiful. They are meant to glorify our land and honor those people who first lived upon it.

(Kay WalkingStick)

"Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist," an unprecedented exhibition organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, will travel to the Montclair Art Museum (MAM) for the final stop on its national tour. The exhibition is the first major retrospective of Kay WalkingStick (b. 1935), a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and one of the world’s most celebrated artists of Native American ancestry. It will be on view at MAM February 3–June 17, 2018.

Featuring more than 60 of WalkingStick’s most notable paintings, drawings, notebooks, and the diptychs for which she is best known, the exhibition traces her career over more than four decades and culminates with her recent paintings of monumental landscapes and Native places. Her distinctive approach to painting emerged from the cauldron of the New York art world, poised between late modernism and postmodernism of the 1960s and 1970s. Over decades of intense and prolific artistic production, she sought spiritual truth through the acts of painting and metaphysical reflection. Organized chronologically around themes that mark her artistic journey, Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist traces a path of constant invention, innovation, and evolving artistic and personal growth through visually brilliant and evocative works of art.

"Night" (1991), a seminal work by WalkingStick, was borrowed from MAM’s collection for the national tour, which included stops at the National Museum of the American Indian, Heard Museum, Dayton Art Institute, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, and Gilcrease Art Museum and will conclude at the Montclair Art Museum. “Much of WalkingStick’s work deals with dualities in contemporary life and she often uses diptychs as a way of unifying this duality,” said Gail Stavitsky, MAM chief curator. “In 'Night,' the two portions represent two kinds of knowledge of the earth. One is visual, a memory of a stream bed near Tucson, Arizona, and the other is more spiritual.”

The presentation at the Montclair Art Museum spans several galleries, located on either side of the Museum’s well-known, permanent installation of works by George Inness. WalkingStick reflected, “I am a great admirer of George Inness and his work will serve as an introduction to my late paintings. In fact, I see myself as part of the long tradition of American landscape painters including Asher B. Durand, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, and George Inness. In their work, especially Inness’ paintings of Montclair, there is a sense of his closeness to home. I am from the tristate area and I love New Jersey’s landscape. I see this area as our place.”

The exhibition is co-curated by NMAI curator Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo) and associate director David W. Penney, in close collaboration with the artist. The exhibition’s presentation at the Montclair Art Museum is coordinated by Gail Stavitsky, MAM’s chief curator.