The Indigenous art scene in the San Francisco Bay Area South of Market (SOMA) has some exciting developments of late, particularly with recent offerings from emerging indigenous artists Black Salt Collective (BSC).
The Black Salt Collective is a collaborative effort of Native and women of color artists who create works of art that delve into issues surrounding Indigeneity, sovereignty, the mixed race experience, LGBTQ community and more. The artists are Sarah Biscarra-Dilley (Chumash/Chicana), Grace Rosario Perkins (Diné and O’odham), Anna Luisa Petrisko (Pinay) and Adee Roberson (Jamaican).
In Visions Into Infinite Archives, their most recent collaborative show presented at SF’s SOMArts, BSC invited artists to create an Indigenous, multi-racial, intergenerational exhibition.
The exhibit work consists of indigenous-themed large-scale day-glow paintings, paper mache’ masks with contorted features and varying expressions, performance-based videos and collages which adorn the walls. Geometric-shaped pedestals painted in neon colors are also scattered around the main room.
ICTMN caught up with Grace Rosario Perkins and Sarah Biscarra Dilley to discuss their involvement with the Black Salt Collective.
Based in Oakland, California but having spent most of her life moving between cities, the Navajo Nation, and the Gila River Indian Community, Grace Rosario Perkins’ grew up working on paintings with her father, an ex-activist that was involved in a lot of actions in the 90s.
Her last show, Thin Leather was well-received in the Bay Area.
“I feel like my cultural heritage is expressed in my work through abstraction in Visions Into Infinite Archives,” says Perkins who says she is working to be seen as a contemporary artist even though she is Native – a title that generally dictates art as traditional.
“Art that has a basis of cultural significance, spirituality, and tradition imbedded into its creation always gets a title that is not seen as contemporary,” she said.
Sarah Biscarra-Dilley is a multi-disciplinary artist that uses cut paper, archival material, handwork, language, thread, found objects and various natural materials in her work.
“A big theme I witness in this exhibition is self-determination,” says Biscarra-Dilley. “Black, brown and indigenous communities who are subject to institutional oppression and ongoing colonial occupation.”
“My work is especially a reflection of a California Indian experience,” says Biscarra-Dilley, who is Chumash.
She says her work “is a responsibility to my family, to my ancestors, to my language, to our historical landbase, to the Ohlone land I stand on, to the movements and individuals who are working to heal themselves and their communities all around me.
“It is an important time to be a California Indian. It is a powerful time to be alive.”
Rene Yanez, Director of Special Projects at SOMArts, has a special connection to the South of Market, aka SOMA, arts scene and explains with great emotion that due to the gentrification of the Bay Area, San Francisco has lost a major part of what used to be a once massive art scene.
He told ICTMN that the Black Salt Collective helps fulfill that sense of needed artistry.
“Black Salt Collective came into the space to create a very cohesive exhibit. They know how to use the space.”
Sam White Swan-Perkins is a contributing writer from Native California, a 2016 USC Annenberg School of Health Journalism Fellow and owner of White Swan-Perkins Cultural Consulting. He wishes to thank musician and artist Iraya Robles for her contributions to this interview.