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MMIP exhibit opens in Ponca City

Fairfax artist Sarah Elsberry, of the Grayhorse District, has a new exhibition open in Ponca City centered on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. An artist's reception on May 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. will welcome Osages to the show, which features both environmental and textile works.

Sarah Elsberry’s new show features an environmental installation of 20,000 pounds of Oklahoma red earth with plants across from garments representing Missing and Murdered Indigenous People underneath prayer flags in the colors of the rainbow. 

Elsberry sees a connection between the war on nature and violence against Indigenous people. “The source of the war on nature is the fear of death,” she said. “We as Indigenous people didn’t have a fear of death.” Rampant consumerism is a disconnect from nature, said the artist, who hopes with her show to create a sanctuary of healing where people can go and just be.

“[The topic of MMIP] is really heavy, so I wanted to create a healing space,” she said. Elsberry’s students stopped in on the opening May 8, and said the show was “emotional.” Elsberry is the teacher for the Wildcat Academy 8th grade art program for Ponca City Public Schools.

“They’re really honest, so I’m so grateful for their feedback,” said the artist. The show includes a red dress Elsberry sewed, paired with her mother, artist Wendy Ponca’s yarn belt in a powerful presentation with a shawl on a mound of earth. 

Elsberry said she thought of memories growing up in Santa Fe and wanted to center the beautiful red color of Oklahoma’s own red earth. Benches covered in Pendleton blankets provide a place for viewers to sit, reflect, and look at the seven trees in the earth installation, planted alongside flowers and set with quartz stones and a bleached coral piece. 

An artist’s reception is scheduled for May 17 from 5 to 7 p.m., and the artist invited all to attend. The show is located in the John McNeese Gallery of City Central in Ponca City and supported by the Ponca Tribe’s Victim Services. In addition to the reception, the show is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through the end of the month.


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Chelsea T. Hicks
Chelsea T. Hicks
Title: Staff Reporter
Languages spoken: English
Chelsea T. Hicks’ past reporting includes work for Indian Country Today, SF Weekly, the DCist, the Alexandria Gazette-Packet, Connection Newspapers, Aviation Today, Runway Girl Network, and elsewhere. She has also written for literary outlets such as the Paris Review, Poetry, and World Literature Today. She is Wahzhazhe, of Pawhuska District, belonging to the Tsizho Washtake, and is a descendant of Ogeese Captain, Cyprian Tayrien, Rosalie Captain Chouteau, Chief Pawhuska I, and her iko Betty Elsey Hicks. Her first book, A Calm & Normal Heart, won the 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation. She holds an MA from the University of California, Davis, and an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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