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Beadwork Exhibit

Photography exhibit and beadwork demonstration emphasize California Indian resilience

On Friday, May 6, from 5 to 8 pm, the Grace Hudson Museum will host an opening reception for a new exhibit, She Sang Me A Good Luck Song: The California Indian Photographs of Dugan Aguilar, as part of Ukiah's monthly First Friday Art Walk. The evening will also include a beadworking demonstration by master beadworker Stewart Wilburn, who will be signing copies of a new book about his life. The event is free and refreshments will be served.

Born and raised in Susanville, at the foot of Mount Lassen, Dugan Aguilar (Mountain Maidu/Pit River/Walker River Paiute) was brought up by parents and a community immersed in Native culture. He has documented those cultures for over 40 years, and has exhibited his work throughout the United States and in Europe. For 30 years, he was the staff photographer for the California Indian Basketweavers Association and the California Indian Storytellers Association.

As Larry McNeil, Tlingit photographer, scholar, and professor of photography at Boise State University notes, “Dugan’s photography embodies the ancient spirits of giving and sharing: it’s visual poetry that resonates through time with the land and the people gently, yet assertively… Beautiful and insightful photographic storytelling for all people of the world.”

She Sang Me A Good Luck Song: The California Indian Photographs of Dugan Aguilar is a partnership with Exhibit Envoy, Heyday Books, and the Native Fund, curated by Theresa Harlan and artist Dugan Aguilar. Support from Janet King and the Sun House Guild have enabled its Ukiah venue. Dugan Aguilar's photos from this exhibit and many more can be explored in the Heyday Books publication of the same name, edited by Theresa Harlan (Kewa Pueblo/Jemez Pueblo), on sale in the Grace Hudson Museum Gift Shop.

Unlike Dugan Aguilar, Stewart Wilburn (Wailaki/Tolowa/Pomo/Wintu) grew up separated from his Native roots. Raised in the Sherwood Valley Rancheria by parents who were sent to boarding school and forbidden to speak their native language, Wilburn has, in a way, dreamed his way back to a place in Native culture. He learned beadwork by watching other Natives do theirs, then incorporated his own colors and designs. He now sells his work nationwide and travels throughout California, attending powwows and selling his original designs — belts, jewelry, shoes, and more — to those attending.

Beadworker Stewart Milburn (photo by Dr. Jeanine Pfeiffer)

Ethnoecologist Dr. Jeanine Pfeiffer comments, "His beadwork is known for its tremendous precision and beauty. People seeing it for the first time are known to widen their eyes, stop still in their tracks, and hold their breath." In the fall of 2015, Dr. Pfeiffer organized a group project for the Nature and World Cultures class she taught at San Jose State University, centering on Wilburn's work. The result is a book of photos, quotes, and an interview with Wilburn that is available in both hardback and paperback. Copies will be on sale at the Grace Hudson Museum Gift Shop, and Wilburn will be signing copies at the beadworking demonstration.

The Grace Hudson Museum is at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4:30 p.m. For more information please call 467-2836 or go to

Maidu Singers (Kai LaPena, Evan Enos, Russell Enos, Lester Enos, Fran LaPena), Bear Dance, 2009 (photo by Dugan Aguilar)

— Roberta Werdinger

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