Melissa Melero-Moose draws on her roots growing up as a Paiute on the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony for her work as a mixed-medium painter. But her work is not a relic of days past.
“I would describe myself as a contemporary Native American artist inspired by the Great Basin,” she said. “It’s my interpretation of landscape, which can end up looking somewhat abstract.”
While making a living as an artist can be difficult in any genre, Melero-Moose said she — and other artists like her – found roadblocks particular to her style.
“There weren’t any venues in this area to show our work,” she said. “The opportunities never really came up.”
So, collaborating with local artist Ben Aleck, Pyramid Lake Paiute and previous director of the Pyramid Lake Museum, they created their own opportunities.
After co-curating the “Under One Sky” exhibit at the Nevada State Museum in 2001 and the 2012 Nevada Museum of Art exhibit, “The Way We Live” in Reno, they created the Great Basin Native Artists in 2014 to promote artists in the region.
The group will be featured in a show on display at the Carson City Visitors Bureau Feb. 3-June 19. A reception will be 5-7 p.m. Feb. 3 at the bureau, 716 N. Carson St.
The exhibit is an opportunity to display Native American art to the outside community as well as promote within their own culture, Melero-Moose said.
“For our Native community, the youth get to see themselves and their culture reflected in our work. It gives them motivation to create and the opportunity to continue our Native culture and Native arts,” she said. “For the non-Native community, they get to see the history and culture of their region.”
The more their artwork is seen, she said, the more people will begin to understand its nuances and complexity.
“Native American art has a certain stereotype,” Melero-Moose said. “People think of geometrics with baskets and Southwestern art.”
However, the stereotype isn’t practical.
“There are more than 500 tribes in the United States and each tribe has its own aesthetic,” she said. “The Great Basin Native Artists showcases our region specifically.”
Her work and the work of the group, she said, serves to broaden the definition of Native American artwork to extend beyond the traditional arts and crafts.
“I grew up with a lot of artists in and around my family,” Melero-Moose said. “They were bead workers and regalia makers. They were inspiring all the same, I just use a different medium.”
The group is open to artists of all mediums including visual arts, performing arts, literary arts, digital and video arts, arts and crafts, photography, sculpture, beadwork and basketry.
“When you see them together you see how related they are as far as design,” Melero-Moose said. “It’s exciting to see.”
The first show will feature the works Melero-Moose, Ben Aleck, Topaz Jones, Jack Malotte and Topah Spoonhunter. The second show will kick off in conjunction with the Stewart Indian School Father’s Day Powwow and run June through December.
“This exhibition allows the Carson City Visitors Bureau to become an informational and cultural venue — the first stop for tourists to see the contemporary impact our own residents and neighbors have on today’s art scene,” said Mark Salinas, the city’s arts and culture coordinator. “It’s an exciting opportunity to see how Native tribes translate their traditions and heritage into contemporary works.”