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Native arts on display at SAMA

| Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 12:50 a.m.

The Lingenfelter Collection of Native American Art opens Friday at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Ligonier Valley with a reception Saturday featuring flute music and dance.

"It is one of the best private collections of Native American art that I have ever seen," said SAMA fine arts curator Dr. Graziella Marchicelli.

The exhibit includes 42 works from the 150-plus collection of C. Wesley and Shirley Lingenfelter, of Martinsburg, Blair County, which was recently featured in a larger exhibit at SAMA, in Loretto.

The Lingenfelters are longtime patrons of the museum and Shirley Lingenfelter is on the board of directors.

"They became interested in Native American art years ago when they visited Arizona," Marchicelli said. "With the high quality and refined pieces in the collection, you can really tell that they did not just jump into collecting, but took time to study, read and do research."

The exhibit includes fine examples of traditional pottery, basketry, textiles and kachina figures, which represent supernatural spirits that tradition says live in the mountains of Arizona.

"They are believed to be intermediaries, almost like messengers, between the Hopi and their gods. There are several of those," Marchicelli said. "Another piece, which goes back to about the mid-1800s, is a round tray made out of different types of juncos, a rope material, and with geometric patterns."

One of her favorites is a black-on-black bowl made around 1925 by Maria and Julian Martinez, of the San Ildesonso Pueblo nation of New Mexico and Arizona, who were known for their pottery.

"This is one of the most exquisite pieces of pottery that I have ever seen," Marchicelli said.

American Indian artists eventually integrated their talents with Anglo-European styles and cultures, while at the same time retaining the integrity of their traditions.

"There is a segment of Native American artists who are becoming extremely powerful and great artists in their own right," Marchicelli said.

One of them is C.J. Wells, from the Arikara nation, whose enormous oil on canvas, "Night Horse," is a portrait of an American Indian, face painted, with the hide of a horse.

Artist Denise Wallace, from the Aleut people in Alaska, made "Transformation Belt," which incorporates legendary figures in sterling silver, 14K gold, fossil ivory and lapis (a blue gemstone) on black leather. There also are bronze and soapstone sculptures titled "Holder of the Pipe" and "Young Native American Woman."

The collection also represents the Apache, Washoe, Tewa, Santa Clara, Wyandotte, Acoma, Navajo and Isleta tribes.

Marianne McAuliffe, a retired mail carrier from Ligonier, will play native flute music at the reception. A self-taught musician and part of SAMA's Artist In Residence program, she performs and teaches at schools and public events, and is part of SAMA's Arts For Healing program that takes arts to hospital and nursing home settings.

"At the reception, I'll be doing mostly improv, which I love, and it will be mostly mood-setting music with a few songs thrown in," she said.

A Fancy Shawl Dance will be performed by Tierney Cranford, of Greensburg, who has danced in powwows in Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma.

"I've been dancing since I was about 8 years old, and I learned it from my family members and people within our community," she said.

Cranford traces her ancestry to the Mskovgean and Louisiana Choctaw nations and the Canadian Sioux. A high school biology teacher, she recently filled in for a teacher on leave in the Jeannette School District.

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