CULLOWHEE, N.C. – This August, the WCU (Western Carolina University) Fine Art Museum opens the exhibition “Spark of the Eagle Dancer: The Collecting Legacy of Lambert Wilson”, featuring over 140 works of contemporary Native American art from the collection of one of western North Carolina’s most notable art enthusiasts. Lambert Wilson, who devoted his life to supporting and encouraging Native artists, amassed an extensive collection of over 6,000 objects during his lifetime, focusing primarily on artists of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation, and sovereign nations of the Southwest. This exhibition brings together a selection of baskets, pottery, carving, painting, photography, and more that tell the story of the relationships Wilson built and the impact that he made by dedicating himself to this remarkable collection. “Spark of the Eagle Dancer” will be on view from Aug. 8 through Dec. 8.
Those who live in western North Carolina know Lambert Wilson as a respected educator and supporter of the arts. He started his collection of contemporary Native American art in the 1970s, when he was studying middle grade education as an undergraduate student at WCU. As part of an introductory art history course taught by Mrs. Janie Leftwich, Wilson completed an extra credit assignment to visit the John Julius Wilnoty “Eagle Dancer” sculpture at Medicine Man Crafts in Cherokee, N.C. This encounter motivated him to acquire his own collection of Cherokee artwork. From that first moment of inspiration,
Wilson saw artwork as a vehicle for culture, learning, and friendship. He spent decades forging relationships with Native artists and being curious about their process of making. With each object acquired, he learned more about the histories and traditions of each artist’s culture and took an interest in their lives. Ultimately his impulse to collect went far beyond the material and was an expression of his love for people and community. In 2006, Wilson met his partner Jenny Holland, who shared his passion for Native art. Together they expanded the scope of the collection to include work by Native artists of the Southwest. “Spark of the Eagle Dancer” gives visitors a glimpse into this vast collection built over 47 years and features work by 83 artists of various tribal affiliations.
Exhibiting artists include Joshua Adams, Rowena Bradley, Goingback Chiltosky, Amanda Crowe, Shan Goshorn, Luzene Hill, Lucille Lossiah, Ramona Lossie, Joel Queen, James Bud Smith, John Julius Wilnoty, Fred Wilnoty, Eva Wolfe, Edmund Youngbird, Vivian Garner Cottrell, Troy Jackson, America Meredith, Lloyd Kiva New, Jane Osti, Karin Walkingstick, Bryan Waytula, Tammy Garcia, Ira Lujan, Jody Naranjo, Bob Proctor, Cara Romero, Diego Romero, Preston Singletary, Roxanne Swentzell, Kathleen Wall, Alvina Yepa, and Marcella Yepa, among many others.
The reception for “Spark of the Eagle Dancer” will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 30 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the WCU Fine Art Museum at Bardo Arts Center, 199 Centennial Drive, Cullowhee, N.C. This event will include a gallery talk, along with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Free parking is available.
- WCU release