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New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art, University of Southern Indiana is proud to present SURVIVAL BLANKETS: Learning from Ancestors featuring paintings, sculpture, and video by St. Louis artist Juan William Chávez. SURVIVAL BLANKETS: Learning from Ancestors will be on view from January 20 through March 2. A closing reception will be held March 2 from 3 – 5 pm CT with an Artist Talk at 3 pm CT. New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art’s open hours are Tuesday – Saturdays, 10 am – 5 pm CT.

Survival Blankets: Learning from Ancestors is a painting exhibition built upon Chávez’s Survival Blanket series. The paintings are drawn with ink on raw linen using dry and wet techniques that produce a variety of lines that flow with movement, as well as bleed and vibrate. A blanket is depicted within a landscape where plants, animals, and sacred objects are carefully arranged and in dialogue with each other. Objects like Peruvian pottery, potatoes, mate gourds, and plants are seen with dogs, llamas, condors, and pollinators. Chávez creates an inner world for observations, reflecting, and listening as a way to learn from his ancestors. This series of paintings is accompanied by a video and sculpture that are connected to Chávez’s Native Bee Sanctuary located in St Louis, MO.

Juan William Chávez is an artist, activist, and director of Northside Workshop. Chávez has exhibited at ArtPace, Van Abbemuseum, McColl Center for Art, Tube Factory Artspace, and Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. His work was included in El Museo’s survey of contemporary Latinx art, ESTAMOS BIEN - LA TRIENAL 20/21, and Counterpublic Triennial 2023 in St. Louis, MO. His interdisciplinary approach to art has gained the attention and support of prestigious institutions like the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital, ArtPlace America, Andy Warhol Foundation, and Art Matters Foundation. Within this year Chávez was announced as lead artist by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ $1 Million Public Art Challenge for the City of Orlando. Chávez holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Juan William Chávez’s studio practice focuses on sculpting space within urban ecosystems through partnerships and collaborations as a way to address social and environmental issues. His sculptures consist of multimedia installations, public art, and socially engaged art projects, often including unconventional forms of beekeeping, agriculture, and gardening. His exhibitions focus on themes of the urban environment, ecology, sustainability, craft/labor, activism, identity, and archaeology of place. Survival Blankets are his multimedia sculptural installations connected to his public projects and his Native Bee Sanctuary located in St. Louis, Missouri. These Survival Blankets contain fabricated and found objects from public works or community projects that are carefully arranged and presented on mylar safety blankets. Survival Blankets are inspired by his Peruvian heritage and reference a mesa, a multicolored tapestry or bundle that is laid on the ground as an altar or workstation to display various sacred objects used for healing in Andean shamanic rituals. Chávez uses the mesa as a studio space to highlight the creative process (both individual and collective) as a sacred tool of the everyday. The themes of these installations center on the urban environment, ecology, sustainability, activism, identity, craft/labor, and archaeology of place.

New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art at University of Southern Indiana promotes discourse about and access to contemporary art in the southern Indiana region. New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art is a proud outreach partner of the University of Southern Indiana.

Photo Credit: Juan William Chávez

This exhibition is made possible in part by the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, and the Indiana Arts Commission, which receives support from the State of Indiana and the National Endowment for the Arts.