The Return of the Force explores the significant influence the Star Wars movies have had on contemporary Native artists through an innovative collection of work that addresses themes such as resistance, place, belonging, and Indigenous knowledge. The exhibition will open on Wednesday, September 27 at 5:30 PM in the Center of Southwest Studies exhibit galleries, with an artist panel from 6:00 PM to 6:45 PM in the Lyceum. The Return of the Force will run through August 2024 and include a suite of programming throughout the year.
The exhibition will feature works by over twenty artists, including Ryan Singer (Diné), Dwayne Manuel (On'k Akimel O’odham), and Christal Ratt (Algonquins of Barriere Lake). Singer is known for paintings that reference both Indigenous and mainstream popular culture, while Manuel brings together street-style art and traditional O’odham imagery. For this exhibition, Ratt has contributed a wiigwas (birch bark) Mandalorian costume that engages the question, "What if the Mandalorian were Indigenous?" A variety of mediums will be on display, ranging from painting and costumes to jewelry.
The Return of the Force is a sequel to the Museum of Northern Arizona’s 2019 exhibit The Force is With Our People. Guest Curator Duane Koyawena (Hopi) and Center Curator Elizabeth Quinn MacMillan expanded the original show, inviting artists from beyond the Southwest to participate in the exhibition and exploring new topics such as the balance of the light and dark sides of the Force as they relate to Native culture. Return of the Force also builds upon the Center’s previous collaboration with Koyawena and Landis Bahe (Diné) on PIVOT: Skateboard Deck Art in 2020.
The Return of the Force was made possible through generous grants from the City of Durango Lodgers’ Tax Arts and Culture Fund and the La Plata Electric Association Round Up Foundation.