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Native Experience: Shafer Gallery announces new exhibit, lectures
Native American artist Bently Spang says art has always been a part of his life. Growing up as a Northern Cheyenne person in an indigenous community, I was immersed in art, and after observing the centrality of art in those communities, it was just a natural thing for me to want to express myself.

Native witness lecture series topics:

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Jan. 31 - Bill and Bently: A Study in Art and Native Identity

Feb. 2 - Alone With Ghosts: Art Making in the Native American Worldview

Feb. 7 - The Kiowa 7: The Origins of Native Style

Feb. 9 - Contemporary Trends in Native American Art

Feb. 14 - Journey is Vision (Presented by Linda McCaffery)

The Shafer Gallery will host an opening reception for its next exhibit, "Native Witness: Indians in the Shafer," from 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22. Refreshments will be served.

The exhibit focuses on Native American themed film and art work. It will include film screenings featuring the work of Bently Spang, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation in Montana, as well as blankets and wood carvings from the collection of Robert Button of Great Bend.

Spang’s personal bio describes him as "an internationally recognized multi-disciplinary artist, curator, educator and writer working in mixed media sculpture, video and performance. His work reveals the complexity of his daily traverse of multiple cultural terrains with pragmatism, humor and deep introspection."

He uses traditional video capturing techniques to create his original material as well as document events and performances, but he also incorporates a mixture of still photos and animated digital stills.

Spang said the inherent ability of video technology to produce timeless artifacts is one of the things that draws him to using video as an artistic medium.

"There’s so much power in it," he said. "Especially the idea that you’re capturing a moment that will live on past the actual point of documentation is really intriguing to me. Video is just a really complex medium that will probably take me a lifetime to sort through."

Button’s contribution to the exhibit consists of Navajo chief blankets from his collection and his own wood carvings of Native Americans.

Gallery Director David Barnes said these particular types of blankets are highly collectible due to their ornate and complex design patterns.

"The Navajo Chief Blankets are one of the most collected types of blankets, and are really something to see," Barnes said. "Bob has a great eye, and he has somehow managed to amass a very impressive collection."

Button is also a highly skilled woodcarver and began woodcarving in the 1970s. The pieces he will show at the exhibit are a series of Native American wood carvings inspired by paintings from Swiss artist Karl Bodmer. Bodmer accompanied Prince Maximilian of Germany on one of the first expeditions into the American west in 1833, and he documented in watercolors what they saw and the people they met.

In addition to the exhibit, the Shafer Gallery will host the Native Witness Lecture Series from noon to 12:50 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from Jan. 31 through Feb. 14. These brown bag sessions will be hosted by Barnes with the final presentation being presented by Barton Community College’s Instructor of History, Linda McCaffery.

The exhibit will run through Feb. 20. Admission to the Gallery is always free.