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Gerald Clarke: The Door is Open


Gerald Clarke: The Door is Open

Old Masonic Hall
May 24 – September 1, 2024

All Ages, ADA Accessible

The Door is Open is a retrospective exhibition of Gerald Clarke’s work featuring sculpture, painting, video, and other media from the 1990s to today. A self-described “30-year emerging artist” and citizen of the Cahuilla Band of Indians, Clarke reckons with personal, national, and Cahuilla tribal histories through his practice. He uses humor to uplift Indigenous narratives, interrogate the impacts of colonialism, and disarm viewers into absorbing his art. 

Exhibition Reception + Artist Talk

Friday, August 23 • 5:30 • Old Masonic Hall


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I aspire not to romanticize the subjects or content of my work. I strive to “keep it real” and have found that my best works are inspired by my personal experiences. Beer cans, branding irons, and gourd rattles represent aspects of my reality. These materials reflect who I am and not how the mainstream might understand the contemporary Native American experience. They represent my community as well: a community that struggles with various issues but that also laughs, loves, and continues to evolve. 

While my work may not appear “traditional,” it is part of a continuation of creative responses to the world that the Cahuilla have exercised since ancient times. I believe the strict adherence to traditional materials and authentic forms has been forced onto Indigenous expression by Euro-American belief systems that view art and culture through a monetary lens. The result is a narrow conception of Native American art that imposes an eighteenth-century aesthetic and transforms it into a commodity.  

As you view my work, I ask that you do not simply compare or contrast it to “traditional Native American art,” but that you understand my work exists within a spectrum of Indigenous expression that is simultaneously ancient and contemporary. I’m proud and humbled to contribute to the Indigenous Intellectual Tradition. I am not simply a contemporary artist that happens to be Indian. I am a Native American artist. I am a Cahuilla artist. 

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About the artist

Gerald Clarke is a visual artist, educator, tribal leader, and cultural practitioner whose family has lived in the Anza Valley for time immemorial. As an enrolled citizen of the Cahuilla Band of Indians, Gerald lives in the home his grandfather built (c.1940) on the Cahuilla Indian Reservation and oversees the Clarke family cattle ranch. He is a Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California Riverside where he teaches classes in Native American art, history, and culture.  

Clarke has exhibited extensively and his work can be seen in numerous major museum collections. In 2007, Gerald was awarded an Eiteljorg Museum Fellowship for Native American Fine Art and served as an Artist-in-Residence at the Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM) in 2015. In 2020, the Palm Springs Art Museum hosted Gerald Clarke: Falling Rock, the first major retrospective of the artist’s work. 

Clarke holds a B.A. in Art from the University of Central Arkansas and the M.A./M.F.A. degrees in Painting/Sculpture from Stephen F. Austin State University.