Beading Culture showcases the work of Wisconsin Oneida artists dedicated to the survival of one of their most important artistic traditions: Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) raised beadwork. Created in partnership with the Oneida Nation Arts Program and Oneida Nation Museum, the exhibit tells a story of cultural resilience and the role of art in defining community. Featured artists include Rodrick Elm, Sandra Wescott Gauthier, Karen Ann Hoffman, April Jordan, Judith L. Jourdan, James Kelly, Christine Klimmek, Rosemary Powless Malanik, Laura Manthe, Christine Munson, Stefanie Sikorowski, Loretta Webster, Rebecca Webster, and Betty Willems.
The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) are known for their distinctive raised beadwork technique. Typically associated with items made for tourists around Niagara Falls, this technique arose in the 19th century and was widely practiced into the 1950s, particularly among the Tuscarora and Mohawk Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. As the tourist market dwindled, however, so did the number of artists creating raised beadwork.
Since the 1990s, several dedicated artists have made a concerted effort to teach and share raised beadwork through classes, workshops, and ongoing beading circles. This technique is increasingly used as a marker of tribal identity on pieces made for personal and ceremonial use, as well as for sale. Among the Wisconsin Oneida, raised beadwork is also a vital link to sister Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy in New York and Ontario.
Through the inclusion of historic raised beadwork pieces; works by artists Samuel Thomas (Cayuga), Lorna Thomas-Hill (Cayuga), and Rosemary Rickard Hill (Tuscarora), who have mentored the Wisconsin Oneida beaders; and video of contemporary beading circles, Beading Culture will communicate the evolution of raised beadwork over time and its importance to the Oneida today.
The James Watrous Gallery thanks Wisconsin Academy members, donors, and the following Beading Culture exhibition sponsors for their support: