For Patricia Marroquín Norby, associate curator of Native American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, water is personal.
And it is also highly politicized, as her experience as a Native American and indigenous researcher whose curatorial approach is inspired by the original guardians of land and water would demonstrate.
“Water politics in the Southwest is about who has the power,” he said. Marroquin Norby was one of two speakers on Prada’s recurring “Possible Conversations” series, which also featured Kate Orff, founding director and partner of landscape architecture firm SCAPE. The latest session was called “Shaping Water” and took place at the Prada store in SoHo on Tuesday night.
Since fashion, in some cases, prioritizes the importance of indigenous knowledge, Marroquín Norby offered a timely perspective on creating acceptance in the art world, from which fashion can learn. In addition, sustainable solutions exist within indigenous communities. She said her role is to create a “welcoming space” for Native peoples at the Met, bringing the contemporary works of Shinnecock Nation artist and filmmaker Courtney M. Leonard, Chemehuevi photographer Cara Romero, Ho- Chunk Tom Jones, among others.
“There is no way that my work does not include the natives [perspectives]”, he reiterated. In addition to advocating for an “active declaration of land and water” at the Met (or an acknowledgment of past misdeeds that honors the original guardians of the land), he gave the audience a native tint to contextualize the work of famous painters like Georgia. O’Keeffe.
On the one hand, he argued, O’Keeffe’s paintings are more “politically charged” than depicted, due to how O’Keeffe urged his own heritage over existing inhabitants’ connection to the land. Essentially, he painted New Mexico’s Pedernal Mountain so often that it is cited as the owner in a popular quote: “God told me if he painted that mountain enough, he could have it.” Marroquín Norby said that this was a way of “visualizing [appropriate]” landscape.
Overall, the audience walked away with fresh dialogue and a new appreciation for indigenous knowledge as it relates to solving complex problems like water scarcity, as well as the more aesthetic meanings of it.
These nuanced learnings and more were on display as potential Prada talks aim to shed light on the intersections in sustainability, art, fashion and design. The session followed a September nature talk called “Thinking Forests,” which similarly had a packed house on Prada’s epicenter wooden stage at its SoHo store.