"Rose B. Simpson: Ground" featured in Inland Valley Daily Bulletin by Wes Woods

"Rose B. Simpson treads new 'Ground' in Pomona College exhibition," by Wes Woods, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Rose B. Simpson is keeping things grounded in her upcoming exhibition.

In fact, the Santa Fe, New Mexico-born artist thought of the word “ground” itself after having a conversation about what the exhibition would be.

“That was Rose,” said Kathleen Howe, professor of art history at Pomona College and director of the Pomona College Museum of Art, about the sense of having the exhibition feel grounded. “That was the basis of the exhibition from the beginning of the planning.”

The Pomona College Museum of Art in Claremont is presenting “Rose B. Simpson: Ground” featuring Simpson’s clay sculptures with Pomona College’s collection of Native-American art running from Aug. 30-Dec. 17. The opening reception is on Sept. 10, from 5-7 p.m. A talk with Simpson, who studied at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and the Institute of American Indian Arts in Sante Fe and who received a bachelor of fine arts in 2007 and an honors master of fine arts in ceramics in 2011 from the Rhode Island School of Design, is also set for 7 p.m. Sept. 8.

Howe said the Pomona College Museum of Art reached out to Simpson, whose work has been shown at the Denver Art Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, Portland Museum of Art, the Heard Museum and more, to visit and talk before asking her if she would like to put together a exhibition.

“And we had at one point must have seemed like we were in the world’s longest conversation,” Howe said, adding Simpson came to visit in fall 2014. “That’s when we sat down and I asked her if she was interested. I said this is what we have done. We had just wrapped the [artist] Edgar Heap of Birds show. She was here and we were talking about other things. She asked very pointed questions. ... I don’t think she wanted to be steamrolled.”

Howe said the conversations with Simpson, who says on her website that she “experienced art throughout her life in Santa Fe and on the Santa Clara Pueblo Reservation,” revolved around what it means to show Native-American work.

“A lot of her choices were very utilitarian objects that are beautiful by virtue of the fact the way they’re made, used and valued for sometimes hundreds of years,” Howe said. “It’s not like we’re putting out the prettiest ceramic vessel. But it requires the viewer to take a leap to say, ‘Lets look at these things differently.’”

Howe is excited about the installation piece in the exhibit.

“The true installation part of her piece, I think, is really a showstopper,” Howe said. “Her piece is that large installation “Ground,” the same name as the exhibition. Which has the two much larger-than-life figures. The ancestor masks, and it’s combined with the Metate and mano, the grounding stones that are part of the Pomona collection. She puts those together ... and there is a display of objects she selected with a work of hers we had in collection we acquired previously.”

This is the second exhibit to invite prominent indigenous artists to present their work with historic pieces from the Pomona College Museum of Art, Howe said. The first being “Nuance of Sky: Edgar Heap of Birds Invites Spirit Objects to Join His Art Practice.”

“We invited Edgar Heap of Birds to work with us three years ago to curate work from our collection and integrate his own work into it,” Howe said. “As I worked with Edgar on that, we talked about showing traditional Native works and the different ways museums do that. And it just seemed to me that the idea of having an artist who is working as a contemporary artist is connected to the traditional arts of their culture ... This is a really rich, vibrant, artistic tradition. We’ve given them a pretty free hand. Choose the things you want to, say the things you want to.”