Milwaukee Art Museum features the works of Ho-Chunk Artist

By Kaili Berg

     On Friday, February 24, “Native America: In Translation” opened at the Milwaukee Art Museum featuring works by Ho-Chunk artist, Tom Jones including the debut of “Bella Falcon” and a spotlight Sessions video called “Strong Unrelenting Spirits.”

     Tom Jones is a Professor of Photography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jones is also a co-author on the book People of the Big Voice, Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families by Charles Van Schaick, 1879-1943. He has artwork in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, Polaroid Corporation, Sprint Corporation, The Chazen Museum of Art, The Nerman Museum, and Microsoft.

     Strong Unrelenting Spirits features a series of portraits that are rooted in his Ho-Chunk identity. The work includes photography while being incorporated with beadwork onto photographs. According to Jones, “It represents that our people are being looked over by our ancestors. I only use white beads because they represent those spirits that are an aura around them. This piece ‘Bella Falcon’ is the first time I represented those orbs.”

     Jones photographs examine identity and geographic place with an emphasis on the experience of American Indian communities.

     “When I’m designing the piece, I generally look at what they are wearing and try to incorporate that in,” said Jones.

     “When I decided to do these orb designs, I was happy that she had these circles on her dress that acted as orbs too. In her earrings, it looks like a flower. I had these broaches that also mimicked that. I put the larger rhinestones in the four directions. The design itself reminds me of Sioux designs they use too. I like how that is mirroring where the inspiration came from.”