January 11 – March 30
Opening Reception: January 11, 5 – 7 p.m.

Watermark Art Center announces the opening reception of “Madwewe – It Is Heard” in the Miikanan Gallery on January 11 from 5-7 p.m. Artists Kent Estey, Rod Northbird, Angela Two Stars and Xilam Balam Ybarra will be featured in this multi-media exhibit.

Madwewe reflects on how we make ourselves heard. There are so many ways to hear culture – through songs, words, sounds and more. From instruments to images, this exhibit will share stories that reassure us of the rich and beautiful diversity in the Indigenous world.


The reception will include opening songs by Rod Northbird. Angela Two Stars will conduct a performance art piece beginning at 5:30. Her performance engages the audience through one on one discussion regarding audience members’ language knowledge, or lack of, and what factors contributed to that knowledge or language loss. The stories collected will then be added to the installation piece “Immersion” included in the Madwewe exhibit.


Upcoming Associated Programming:

February 7: “Picking Sweet Grass with Ma” – Artist Talk by Kent Estey at 6 p.m.

March 1: Artist Reception from 5 – 7 p.m. – Special presentation by Xilam Balam Ybarra

Artist Statements:

Kent Estey: I’ve always been drawn to the sky, the water, the horizon line and beyond. I’m sure it is because I am surrounded by the woods, the lakes, and so many beautiful skies of Northwestern Minnesota. I consider myself a contemporary Native Artist, with a special interest in landscapes. My paintings can be very traditional in nature to a work of art that has been created with an open mind and limited planning, beyond the choice of what medium I have chosen for the piece. I am a self-taught artist with a special fondness for abstract and semi-abstract, non-objective paintings. I love to experiment with color and texture. I use a variety of mediums in my paintings, including acrylic, oil, and ink, on canvas. My most recent painting feature stone, copper, and other metals. I also love to work with wood, so I create my own frames and most often they lend to the overall feeling of each piece I create. I am inspired by earth tones with deep shades of blue, browns and red. Sometimes I paint from a reference photo, but most often I paint from simple inspiration. It just happens.


As a Native American artist, I am often asked to paint an eagle, a wolf, a turtle or something with a teepee or wigwam. At first, I tried to honor the requests from family and friends, but my heart wasn’t in it. My subjects were land and sky but expressed in a way that made me satisfied with my work. It took time and it was a process, but over the years I’ve learned to trust what I see and how I express what I see. I am confident that I cannot paint for others, first! I have to paint from my heart and my vision. Then, and only then, I can express my heritage and honor the native artist inside.


Rod Northbird (Leech Lake Reservation) is a self-taught artist who has been making drums for 20 years. He has created drums for graduations, youth programs and schools, as well as well-known powwow groups such as White Fish Bay, Blackstone and Midnight Express. Northbird is also a singer who performs both individually and in drum groups. He currently sings with Timberland from Great Lakes Region.

Northbird uses his own natural materials for each drum. He preps each hide and makes his own hoops.

Northbird’s art is about family and community. He enjoys working with youth to build a connection to culture and learn songs. Instrument-making is also a way that he honors relatives, both here and those who have journeyed on.

Angela Two Stars: Language, by definition, is a body of words and systems for their use common to people who are of the same community, geographical area, or the same cultural traditions. It is a tool through which to communicate thoughts and emotions. Native American languages are regional entities that identify specific tribal nations in respect to their people, culture, stories, and ceremonies. With the undeniable presence, actions, and effects of assimilation, boarding-school trauma, and incomplete generation-to-generation learning of Native American languages, the potential loss of these languages is imminent and deserves immediate revitalization efforts.

My work explores the native language of my tribe, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. Currently, there are less than 70 fluent Dakota speakers and the average age of those speakers is 78-years old. My desire is to raise awareness of the endangered status of Native American languages. My work acts as a learning tool and considers the younger audience, who are the potential future of our language. I employ an interactive element to my work to address how learning a language requires active participation.

Language has a way of capturing the viewer and acts as a lure. By using text within my artwork affects the way the viewer responds and receives the work. What is communicated as text versus what is communicated visually is different, yet similar, and both convey information. It is up to the audience of which aspect to interpret.

Xilam Balam (b. San Antonio, Texas) is an emerging interdisciplinary contemporary visual artist and music producer whose work is a fusion of Pre-Columbian Indigenous art forms and contemporary hip-hop and graphic arts. He is a 2018 Mcknight Ceramics Fellow. He works in a variety of mediums including music, ceramics, painting, screen-printing, stone carving, and epigraphy. Musically, Balam was part of the formative Headshots Crew of Rhymesters Entertainment and producer of Los Nativos, and continues to produce with Curandero, Lady Xok, and unreleased upcoming solo projects. His work has been highlighted in Chican@ Hip-Hop Nation: Politics of a New Millennial Mestizaje, The Source Magazine, and on TPT MN Original. He has performed across the country and in Mexico, producing, exhibiting, and teaching locally. Balam is a co-founder of Electric Machete Studios, a Latinx art & music production house. Learn more about him at www.mnartists.org/xilam-balam

Programming made possible, in part, by the McKnight Foundation. Special thanks to Marketplace Foods and our media partner, KAXE/KBXE Northern Community Radio.