LAWRENCE — Recognized worldwide for his contribution to conceptual Native American art, University of Kansas alumnus Edgar Heap of Birds returns to Lawrence to discuss his journey from student to international artist in a public event.
Heap of Birds’ presentation, sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will be 6:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St. The event is free, but RSVPs are requested.
Local artist and scholar Roger Shimomura will interview Heap of Birds about his life and career. Heap of Birds will also be recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor from the College.
He has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of Art, Smithsonian’s Nation Museum of the American Indian and Venice Biennale, as well as galleries and museums in Australia, Germany, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, China, Indonesia and France.
Heap of Birds works in a variety of media, including multidisciplinary forms of public art, large scale drawings, acrylic paintings, prints, works in glass and monumental porcelain enamel on steel outdoor sculpture.
His artwork is shaped by his place within the Cheyenne/Arapaho community. After his time at KU and earning his Master of Fine Arts from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, Heap of Birds returned to Oklahoma, moved into an old, family homestead that lacked all modern amenities and received the biggest creative boost he’s ever had.
The meaning of Heap of Birds’ work is twofold. First, it is very much about educating the public on indigenous peoples. He wants the public to see indigenous people as viable.
"They are not in the past and over with," he said. "They are in the moment, they are now.”
The second purpose is to see contemporary indigenous people as individuals with a free persona to express themselves.
“My painting and a lot of my political public art, my historic work was ignited by being in the community of the Cheyenne/Arapaho,” Heap of Birds said. “But I really feel like a big part of it – maybe more – was being in nature, learning from the land and the earth.”
Heap of Birds has been a teacher for more than 25 years and is currently a professor of Native American studies at the University of Oklahoma.
The College honored three alumni with its Distinguished Alumni Award for 2014-’15. More information on all recipients is available on the College’s blog.