Descendants is a new body of work by Dianne Hebbert depicting people of Indigenous descent in collaged paradisiacal landscapes. Through larger-than-life representations of real people that claim space, the work celebrates people of Latinx and American Indigenous heritage and the continuation of their cultural traditions as a form of resilience.
Portraits include members of the artist’s Nicaraguan Miskito family; youth from the Brooklyn-based Mexican and Latin-American immigrant empowerment organization Mixteca; and descendants of the Lenape tribe that originally inhabited the land surrounding the Old Stone House (OSH). The choice of subject matter was inspired by Hebbert’s past work as a teaching artist with Mixteca and visits to the NYC-based Lenape Center events as well as historic Lenape images. The portraits’ backgrounds consist of collaged images of Caribbean landscapes and reserved Indigenous land in the United States.
Continuing the artist’s ongoing investigation of glorification, migration, and displacement through posture and fashion, this new body of work further pushes experimentation with materials and representation. Inspired by Italian Renaissance, Egyptian and Buddhist art, Hebbert incorporates gold to attribute the highest value and esteem to her figures, creating superlative beings. Site-specific exhibition components include large suspended figures on mylar in the gallery and an outdoor installation featuring traditional Indigenous crops that reference native plants in the OSH garden and continued life, growth and adaptation.
Descendants corresponds with the opening of the OSH’s new interactive exhibit on the Lenape history of the site. OSH is at the crossroads of ancient Lenape paths, adjacent to the historic town of Marechkawick. In the 1640s, the Dutch West India Company began a series of violent confrontations known as Kieft’s War, breaking its agreements with the Lenape. By 1645, the Lenape of Marechkawick agreed to sell their lands in what would become Brooklyn, forcing them west to Staten Island and the Hudson Valley. Today, despite the displacement of its original Lenape residents, New York City still has one of the largest intertribal Indigenous communities in the country.
Descendants is one of a series of exhibits and programs at OSH that provide opportunities for contemporary Indigneous artists to connect a greater awareness of the past to critical conversations about Brooklyn’s future.
Curated by Katherine Gressel.