John Steffl Gallery
Image: Blair Treuer, “Evan” English name Niiyo-bines/Four Thunderbirds Ojibwe names
Textile artist Blair Treuer’s portraits of herself, husband and nine children move off the walls with emotional energy. Textures and patterns blend and contrast, creating form; fabric mimicking paint while luring viewers to lean in, to observe, to examine detail. Relationships of the materials emerge, as do the relationships between the artist, herself and her family. Treuer explains, “The portraits are an intimate conversation about my life and the lives of my husband and children. My son’s inability to fit in at school; my daughters struggles with drug abuse, incarceration and the loss of her children; the loss I feel about my severed connection to my ancestors as a Scandinavian transplant with nothing left of my heritage to hold onto.” Treuer continues, “This exhibit is about my life as an outsider, the only non-Native American in my immediate family. My work is about my reflections of standing fixed on the outside, but privileged enough to look in.”
As Treuer’s children prepared for a ceremony, the only way for her to participate as a non-native was to make blankets for their spiritual offering. She poured herself into them, teaching herself how to sew and discovering a spiritual process that feels to Treuer like “Inspiration channeling through me faster than my fingers can move”.
In Identity, Treuer becomes a storyteller delivering a message, “magic can be created when two people from different cultures love each other and build a life together.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Blair Treuer is a storyteller who paints with fabric and draws with thread. Treuer grew up in Northern Minnesota, and has spent most of her life in these North Woods. Treuer's career path can be described as Wanderlust. She studied History, Philosophy, and Psychology in college, then worked with several disadvantaged populations through various organizations which included foster homes and treatment centers for kids coping with mental health disorders and/or addiction. Treuer was halfway through a Masters Degree in Special Education when she married her husband Anton Treuer and abandoned career goals all together to focus on supporting his career as an Educator and Activist and to raise their 9 children.
Treuer has always enjoyed and played with nearly all forms of artistic expression throughout her life. As Treuer’s children prepared for a traditional Native American ceremony, the only way for her to participate as a non-native was to make blankets for their spiritual offering. She pored herself into them, teaching herself how to sew and discovering a transcendental process that feels to Treuer like “Inspiration channeling through me faster than my fingers can move.”
Treuer says, “I approach my work like a painting. Placing tiny pieces of fabric onto a large blank sheet of fabric, like one would place a paint stroke onto their canvas. Once the composition is complete, I sew it all together. Because I work at a large scale, I cannot reach the top half of my portraits. So they are created upside down. The images come to me like dreams. They haunt me until I create them. Inspiration channels through me faster than my fingers can move. Only when the piece is finished, like waking from a dream… only then do I ask myself ‘What is this trying to tell me? What does this mean?’”
Image: Blair Treuer, “Mia” English name Biidaabanookwe/The Coming of the Light of Day Woman (Artist’s Daughter), 2019 Fabric and thread 72”H x 50”W
The Duluth Art Institute's programs and services are made possible in part through the support of the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2018.