Working from her ancestral homelands in the rural community of Chiloquin, Oregon, Ball approaches her sculptural work to challenge the narrative surrounding the Native American experience and history.
In Mama Bear, II, Natalie Ball presents one free-standing sculpture, and five wall works from her Mama Bear series. In this series, Ball explores gesture and materiality to create sculptures as “Power Objects” a term used to describe shared cultural symbols or objects. Ball offers the objects as proposals of refusal to complicate an easily affirmed and consumed narrative and identity, without absolutes. She believes historical discourses of Native Americans have constructed a limited and inconsistent visual archive that currently misrepresents their past experiences and misinforms current expectations.
Ball’s use of materials is wide-ranging, often incorporating traditional, indigenous materials with found objects ranging from textiles, leather, beads, and wood to coyote teeth, hair, fur and bone. It is this juxtaposition, which sometimes bordering on the absurd that allows Ball to create a new auto-ethnographic narrative as she excavates hidden histories, and dominant narratives to deconstruct them through a theoretical framework of auto-ethnography to move “Indian” outside of governing discourses in order to build a visual genealogy that refuses to line-up with the many constructed existences of Native Americans. The familiar, hand-made dolls, quilts and clothing, becomes abstracted, dissembled and reinvigorated into wholly new, expressive objects.
Furthermore, Ball lends her work as new texts, with new histories, and new manifestations, to add to the discussion of complex racial narratives that are critical to further realizing the self, the nation, and necessarily, our shared experiences and histories. Through a symbolic art-making language, Ball reveals the tenuous and sometimes in flux nature of identities, specifically her identity as an Indigenous woman who is Black and Indian, as well as the narrative that often surrounds this identity.