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Paintings, personal journals highlights American Indian woman's atypical vision, activism



er, Dr. Cornelius Duggan, members of a wealthy New York City family. Although Wa Wa Chaw grew up in a white family and never met her Indian parents, she was a devoted activist for both American Indian and women's rights, and used her heritage extensively as a theme in her art.

"There's no question that it is not what we would consider typical stylistically of Native American artists," Schroeder said. "It has an almost abstract quality to it and is just very reflective of her unique view of the world."

The exhibit includes more than 20 pieces, creating an experience that's as much a visual biography as an art show. Due to the fragility of the paper works, they cannot be shown for long periods of time, so this exhibit is an opportunity for visitors to discover a significant artist and see a rare part of the collection.

"Arthur and Shifra Silberman amassed paintings, drawings, prints in their personal collection, and it's one of the largest holdings of Wa Wa Chaw's works," said Mike Leslie, the museum's assistant director. "We rotate the gallery every six months and showcase different themes and different artists from the Silberman Collection."

Growing up outside of a reservation in an elite urban environment, Wa Wa Chaw had a very different experience from other American Indian artists in the early 1900s.

"When you look at most work by Native American artists it expresses their particular culture and you see lots of wildlife references, lots of references to their tribal traditions and practices," Schroeder said. "In the case of Bonita, hers is much more expressive of the world around her, which was an urban setting and it's a somewhat more ethereal look at people and places."

Visitors to the exhibit can follow Wa Wa Chaw's dynamic story as they see her depicted with her adoptive mother or with children in her arms. However, this is sometimes an alternative version of her life as told through her art, as after she married Manuel Carmonia-Nu


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