‘Intermodal’ art exhibition highlights connection between indigenous practices and oceanic sustainability

Courtney Leonard’s series “Intermodal” is currently being exhibited at the Pomona College Museum of Art. (Chloe Ortiz • The Student Life)

As I entered a room with red walls, nets on the floor and faucets filled with oysters, I quickly realized that the Pomona College Museum of Art wasn’t hosting any average art exhibit.

The museum’s most recent exhibition, “Intermodal” by Courtney Leonard, is not only intriguing and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but also explores cultural and historical roots related to indigenous practices and the human exploitation of oceanic resources.

Leonard is a contributor to the Offshore Art movement, a historical movement comparable to the Land Art movement. With a focus on conceptual performance art, Offshore Art specifically features oceanic subjects and scenery. In addition to contributing to the movement, Leonard also works with ceramic sculptures rooted in the forms and histories of indigenous fishing technologies.

As a member of an indigenous group herself — the Shinnecock Indian Nation of Long Island, New York — Leonard uses her heritage to discuss and explore native fishing practices and impacts on oceanic environments. Leonard’s art documents historical ties to water, whale and material sustainability. Her art also deals with “narratives of cultural viability” and their relationship to environmental record.

There are innumerable reasons why 5C students should take advantage of an exhibit like this. “Intermodal” is free, offers a visually pleasing cultural experience also raises awareness about indigenous practices and environmental sustainability.

“It was really cool to see the show come together and [watch] the entire process … while communicating with the artist and getting the artist’s ideas to come true in a space like the Pomona Museum of Art,” said Juste Simanauskatie PO ’21, a museum intern. “It was such an amazing, eye-opening experience, and [the exhibit] really brings you into a space you would not see outside.”

Simanauskatie said she spent the summer collecting Native American art pieces from Pomona’s permanent collection to use for Leonard’s exhibit. The show is a testament to how Pomona collaborates with artists by providing assistance through its expansive collection of works.

With “Intermodal,” students have the opportunity to see Native American works that would otherwise be stored away in Pomona’s permanent collection.

Everyone can interpret aspects of “Intermodal” in their own way. There’s a lot of room to figure out what the art means to you, and that’s why it is an exhibit that’s worth your time.

Chloe Frelinghuysen PZ ’21 is from Connecticut. She is a passionate artist and art history nerd.

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