The “Faces from the Interior” art exhibition opened at Joslyn Art Museum on Oct. 2 and will be on display until May 1, 2022.
The exhibition features the watercolor portraits of a Swiss artist named Karl Bodmer, who was hired by a German Prince — Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied. Bodmer was hired to accompany him on a 5,000 mile round trip journey up the Missouri River into Montana in the early 1830s.
Prince Maximilian hired Bodmer to paint the scenes of their journey. This included landscapes, flora and fauna, as well as portraits of Indigenous leaders from the Missouri River tribes.
The associate curator of the exhibition, Annika K. Johnson, says this is a cornerstone collection at Joslyn Art Museum. They own the majority of the Karl Bodmer watercolors and this is their first exhibition at the museum that focuses on Bodmer’s portraits of Indigenous leaders.
“We’re really focusing on these individuals’ biographies, the stories they are telling through their regalia and the stories that their descendants tell as well,” says Johnson.
A major component of Johnson’s work on the show was reaching out to Indigenous communities to ask individuals to write for the show. There are just under 20 wall labels included in the exhibition, written by descendants of various tribes that Bodmer met including Lakota, Mandan, Hidatsa and Yankton.
For the occasion of the show, they created a series of four mini-documentaries and each one focuses on an individual or a community from a tribe that Bodmer visited. The films reflect Bodmer, but they also get insight into tribal cultural centers, tribal colleges and artist studios.
These 10-minute films can be found on their website on the exhibition landing page, or on their YouTube Channel as well as in the exhibition itself at the Joslyn Art Museum.
“I think what makes this show special is that these are just incredibly beautiful, very detailed images,” Johnson said. “And you do not get to see these watercolors that often, watercolors fade if they are exposed for too long, so we’re very protective of them.”
Johnson also adds that what makes the show the show, are the Indigenous individuals who have contributed and participated in the mini-documentaries.
An exciting feature that the Joslyn Art Museum offers is that college students with current IDs get tickets for 50 percent off ($5 instead of $10) for the “Faces from the Interior” show.
Another major event taking place is on Monday, Nov. 29. They will be open special hours — 4 to 8 p.m. — because it will be their 90th anniversary. During this event, everyone can see “Faces from the Interior” for free!
The exhibition will be open through May 1, 2022.