From Oct. 29 to Dec. 12, The Pablo Center at the Confluence is hosting the First Nations Contemporary Art exhibit in the Brady & Jeanne Foust Gallery on the first floor.
The exhibit features the work of artist Christopher Sweet, a Wisconsin native and member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. On Nov. 19, the Pablo Center held an artist’s reception where the public could peruse the exhibit and chat with Sweet.
According to the Pablo Center’s webpage, the goal of the exhibit is to explore the experience of First Nations people and all the perceptions, misconceptions and explorations of identity that entails.
“Christopher Sweet’s artwork tells a story of the Ho-Chunk Nation from his experience living in Wisconsin,” Rose Dolan-Neill, assistant director of art programming at the Pablo Center, said.
According to Sweet, his artwork is a method of self-expression and, because of that, connections to the First Nations experience are natural and inevitable.
“It’s kind of hard for me not to incorporate some kind of native aspect,” Sweet said. “I’m very proud of my culture, and it’s one of the main things that inspires me. So it’s an almost inescapable part of my work, in a good way.”
Sweet said he has always been drawn to art since he was a young kid, and spent a lot of time throughout his school years drawing sketches.
“The first thing I remember doing is a drawing of a bird in grade school,” Sweet said.
In high school, Sweet said art classes were always what he enjoyed most, and he spent some time studying art in Sante Fe, New Mexico. Beyond that, Sweet is largely self-taught.
Sweet said art continued to be a passion of his throughout his life, but it wasn’t until 2016 that he finally took the jump to pursuing it professionally.
“In 2016, I was featured in my first gallery,” Sweet said. “Since then, I’ve done six or seven more shows.”
According to Dolan-Neill, the Pablo Center features three galleries, including the Brady-Foust Gallery where the exhibit is being held, which lines the hallway from one of the Center’s entrances. According to Sweet, the location was nice because a lot of people just passing through were able to take a look at the gallery.
Sweet said providing ways for communities to experience and be exposed to Ho-Chunk culture is a major goal for the gallery and his work as a whole.
“We want to welcome in the community, and truly show off Ho-Chunk culture to everyone,” Sweet said.
In Reedsburg, WI, where Sweet is based out of, he runs Blue Bear Studio. According to Sweet, the studio serves as a workspace for his painting, as well as a permanent gallery for both his work and the work of many other First Nations artists.
“We’re just getting started now,” Sweet said. “We want to feature more artists, and inspire future artists. Hopefully, children who see our artwork will feel inspired to explore art, too.”
The First Nations Contemporary Art exhibit in the Pablo Center at the Confluence is being shown until Dec. 12. For more information about Christopher Sweet’s work, visit his Instagram and Facebook.
Porisch can be reached at [email protected]