Erica Lord in "Sharing Honors and Burdens: Renwick Invitational 2023"

curated by Lara Evans at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum

May 26, 2023 - March 31, 2024

Accola Griefen Fine Art is pleased to announce that Erica Lord is one of six artists featured in Sharing Honors and Burdens: Renwick Invitational 2023 which will be on view from May 26th, 2023 to March 31, 2024 at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The exhibition is curated by independent curator and Vice President of Programs of the First Peoples Fund, Dr. Lara Evans. 

The exhibition focuses on fresh and nuanced visions by Native American or Alaska Native artists who express the honors and burdens that connect people to one another. The more than 50 artworks in the exhibition arise from traditions of making that honor family, community or clan, and require broad community participation. Six artists — Joe Feddersen (Arrow Lakes/​Okanagan), Lily Hope (Tlingit), Ursala Hudson (Tlingit), Erica Lord (Athabaskan/​Iñupiat), Geo Neptune (Passamaquoddy) and Maggie Thompson (Fond du Lac Ojibwe) — analyze the present moment by evoking historical practices and potential futures. Their works are often culturally specific, yet they communicate across cultural boundaries. 

The work on view at The Renwick is from Lord's ongoing series of beaded sculptures that reference cultural materials from Athabaskan and Iñupiat communities including burden straps for carrying infants (image below) and blankets for sled dogs which form a larger installation titled, The Codes We Carry (image above).  For Lord's vibrant, seemingly pixelated patterning, the artist draws on images of RNA/DNA microarray analyses or tests of diseases that disproportionately affect Native people. For this series Lord considers what burdens these communities carry, while also navigating her own experiences with disability.  

The works in The Codes We Carry installation were inspired in part by the artist's research in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution where she first encountered honorific, decorative tuppies (dog sled blankets). The work is also derived from Lord's experience growing up with sled dogs in her Alaskan family’s village, Nenana, which was famously the origin of the 1925 relay wherein dogs delivered life saving diphtheria antitoxin serum to the site of an outbreak in Nome. Lord addresses both the past and the present with these works as, in 2021, dog sleds were one of the forms of transportation for COVID-19 vaccines across Alaska. 

In her community, woven or decorated hide straps are traditionally used to carry babies or heavy bundles. Lord reconfigured this technologically simple carrying device with materials and patterns representing diseases and conditions that particularly affect Native Alaskans today. Her transformation of customary burden straps and tuppies reflects the invisible and intangible things we carry: from love and pride in family and community, to the burdens of historical trauma, colonialism, poverty, pollution, and environmental change.
       - Dr. Lara Evans, Independent Curator & Vice President of Programs, First Peoples Fund
           from "Coded Burdens, Coded Honors," in Sharing Honors and Burdens (University of Washington Press)

Erica Lord is an interdisciplinary artist who explores contemporary Indigenous experience through photography, installation, performance, sculpture and beadwork. Her work addresses her experience growing up in Alaska and Upper Michigan and her mixed-race cultural identity drawn from her Athabaskan, Iñupiat, Finnish, Swedish, Japanese, and English descent. Lord is an enrolled member of Nenana Native Village.

Lord received a BA from Carleton College and an MFA in sculpture and photography from The Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited her work in solo exhibitions at the DeVos Museum of Art, MI; Alaska Native Arts Foundation Gallery; AK, as well as in notable group exhibitions at venues including the Peabody Essex Museum, MA; Havana Biennial, Cuba and the Museum of Contemporary Native American Art, NM; National Museum of the American Indian, NY; National Gallery of Canada, ON; Burke Museum, WA; Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, IN; and Musée du Quai Branly, France among others. In addition to the Rollins Museum of Art, Lord’s work is in collections including the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, NM; Musée de Confluences, France; University of Alaska Museum of the North, AK; CN Gorman Museum, CA; Schingoethe Museum IL; Montana Museum of Art and Culture; Rollins Museum of Art at Rollins College, FL and Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MA. Lord's work was recently featured in the exhibition Self Determined: A Contemporary Survey of Native and Indigenous Art at the Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Fe which was voted one of the Top Fifty Exhibitions in 2022 by Hyperallergic. Her work is also on view currently at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in the exhibition, In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890 to Now.
Lord lives and works in Santa Fe, NM, where she also teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts. 

For inquiries about available work by the artist please contact