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Spark of the Eagle Dancer: The Collecting Legacy of Lambert Wilson

EXHIBITION: August 8 - December 8, 2023 and January 16 - June 28, 2024
RECEPTION: Wednesday, August 30, 2023, from 5-7pm
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beetle carved out of wood

John Julius Wilnoty, Beetle, oak burl wood carving, 4.25 x 9 x 4.625 inches

Spark of the Eagle Dancer: The Collecting Legacy of Lambert Wilson, features over 140 works of contemporary Native American art from the collection of one of Western North Carolina’s most notable art enthusiasts. Lambert Wilson, who devoted his life to supporting and encouraging Native artists, amassed an extensive collection during his lifetime, focusing primarily on artists of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation, and sovereign nations of the Southwest. This exhibition brings together a selection of baskets, pottery, carving, painting, photography, and more that tell the story of the relationships Wilson built and the impact that he made by dedicating himself to this remarkable collection.

Picture of Lambert Wilson at an exhibition honoring John Julius Wilnoty.

Photo courtesy of WCU Photo Services.

Those who live in Western North Carolina know Lambert Wilson as a respected educator and supporter of the arts. He started his collection of contemporary Native American art in the 1970s, when he was studying middle grade education as an undergraduate student at WCU. As part of an introductory art history course taught by Mrs. Janie Leftwich, Wilson completed an extra credit assignment to visit the John Julius Wilnoty Eagle Dancer sculpture at Medicine Man Crafts in Cherokee, NC. This encounter motivated him to acquire his own collection of Cherokee artwork. From that first moment of inspiration, Wilson saw artwork as a vehicle for culture, learning, and friendship. He spent decades forging relationships with Native artists and being curious about their process of making. With each object acquired, he learned more about the histories and traditions of each artist’s culture and took an interest in their lives. Ultimately his impulse to collect went far beyond the material and was an expression of his love for people and community. In 2006, Wilson met his partner Jenny Holland, who shared his passion for Native art. Together they expanded the scope of the collection to include work by Native artists of the Southwest. Spark of the Eagle Dancer gives visitors a glimpse into this vast collection built over 47 years and features work by 83 artists of various tribal affiliations.

Exhibiting artists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians: 
Joshua Adams, Boyce Allison, Darrin Bark, Nancy George Bradley, Rowena Bradley, Goingback Chiltosky, Amanda Crowe, Gabe Crowe, W.H. Crowe, Annie Tooni Driver, Bernadine George, Lucy N. George, John Henry Gloyne, Butch Goings, Louise Goings, Shan Goshorn, General Grant, Luzene Hill, Paul Hornbuckle, Virgil Ledford, Madison Hye Long, Lucille Lossiah, Ramona Lossie, Louise Bigmeat Maney, Lloyd Carl Owle, Joel Queen, Joely Queen, James Bud Smith, Lottie Queen Stamper, Amanda Sequoyah Swimmer, Emma Squirrel Taylor, Cora Wahnetah, M. Walkingstick, Agnes Welch, Maidena Welch, Maude Welch, Fred Wilnoty, Freddy Wilnoty, John Julius Wilnoty, Eva Wolfe, Jerry Wolfe, and Edmund Youngbird.

Exhibiting artists from the Cherokee Nation:
Martha Berry, Vivian Garner Cottrell, Bill Glass, Troy Jackson, America Meredith, Lloyd Kiva New, Jane Osti, Karin Walkingstick, and Bryan Waytula.

Artists of Other Federally Recognized Tribes: 
Abraham Begay (Navajo Nation), Autumn Borts-Medlock (Santa Clara Pueblo), Nick Brokeshoulder (Hopi), Randy Brokeshoulder (Hopi), Joe Cajero (Jemez Pueblo), Randy Chitto (Mississippi Choctaw), Clara Darden (Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana), Jeremy Frey (Passamaquoddy), Tammy Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo), Starr Hardridge (Muscogee Creek Nation), Sheldon Harvey (Navajo Nation), Norma Howard (Choctaw), Ira Lujan (Taos/Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo), Maria Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo), Rochelle Medlock (Santa Clara Pueblo), Gary Montgomery (Seminole Nation of Oklahoma), Jody Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo), Kyle Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo), Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo), Bob Proctor (Choctaw Nation), Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), Diego Romero (Cochiti Pueblo), Sarah Sense (Choctaw/Chitimacha), Penny Singer (Navajo Nation), Tommy Singer (Navajo Nation), Preston Singletary (Tlingit), Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo), Kathleen Wall (Jemez Pueblo), Alvina Yepa (Jemez Pueblo), Lawrence Yepa (Jemez Pueblo), and Marcella Yepa (Jemez Pueblo)

Reception Details
The reception for Spark of the Eagle Dancer will take place on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, from 5:00-7:00 PM at the WCU Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center, 199 Centennial Drive, Cullowhee, NC. This event will include a gallery talk, along with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Free parking is available.

Museum Hours
The WCU Fine Art Museum exhibitions and events are free and open to the public. Standard Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10AM-4PM, and Thursday, 10AM-7PM. If you have any questions, please call (828)227-ARTS.

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