sewn fabric, 40 inches by 36 inches
Good Thunder, MN
A fiber artist and poet, Gwen Westerman lives in southern Minnesota, as did her Dakota ancestors. Her roots are deep in the landscape of the tall grass prairie, and reveal themselves in her art and writing through the languages and traditions of her family. Since 2005, she has been creating quilts that have won awards at the juried shows of the Northern Plains Indian Art Market in Sioux Falls, the Eiteljorg Indian Art Market in Indianapolis, and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Art Fair & Market in Phoenix. Her work is now in the permanent collections of the Red Cloud Heritage Center Museum in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, the University Art Galleries at the University of South Dakota, and the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul. She is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate. The co-author of Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota which won a 2013 Minnesota Book Award, she also has a collection of poetry in Dakota and English, Follow the Blackbirds, published by Michigan State University Press.
“As Dakota people, we have a long, rich history that explains not only where we came from, but also our responsibilities to each other and to the universe. My art is grounded in Dakota culture, history, oral tradition, and language recovery—and the continuation of our story. The women in my family have made functional quilts from fabric for at least six generations—my childhood was full of them. While many of the quilts I create are utilitarian as well, and I expect them to be used, they also function to tell a story. My uncle and my grandma always reminded me that we need to tell the truth about our people and our history. I like to think that I do that in my art.”