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‘Exploding Native Inevitable’ travels to SMoCA

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Artist Brad Kahlhamer’s travels have long informed his personal artistic practice, and now they have inspired an exhibition at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) featuring the works of contemporary Indigenous artists from tribes across the United States.

Titled “Exploding Native Inevitable,” the exhibition includes work by 12 artists and two collaboratives, accompanied by a program of dance, film, music, performance, readings, storytelling and video. Exhibiting artists range from emerging to elders. “Exploding Native Inevitable” opens Aug. 10 at SMoCA, which is operated by the nonprofit Scottsdale Arts.

“The research for this exhibition was very organic,” Kahlhamer said. “Exploration is an integral part of my ‘Nomadic Studio’ artistic process. And my travels have taken me across the country, meeting all these artists along the way. So, that same constant curiosity that drives my own artistic practice also played a major role in how I curated this show.”

Born to Indigenous parents, Kahlhamer was adopted in infancy by a German American family. His tribal affiliation is unknown, and Kahlhamer has explored this nationless identity through the course of his prolific art career.

“Exploding Native Inevitable” debuted on Oct. 27, 2023, at Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Maine, where Kahlhamer’s co-curator, Dan Mills, is the museum’s director and chief curator. The curators have known each other for more than two decades, and they began work on this collaborative project in 2019. Mills said Kahlhamer brings “deep knowledge and keen insights to this project.”

The exhibition title riffs on Andy Warhol’s 1966–67 “Exploding Plastic Inevitable,” a series of multimedia events — including performances, concerts and film screenings — that accompanied and extended his exhibition. Likewise, the expansive and adventuresome project that is “Exploding Native Inevitable” will include a wide-ranging and ongoing series of events and programs.

Kahlhamer said the exhibition’s artists build on cultural traditions, pushing creative boundaries as they represent some of the extraordinary work being done by Indigenous artists across the land.

Among those artists is Nizhonniya Austin, a Diné/Tlingit actress and artist whose acting credits include the Showtime television series “The Curse,” starring Scottsdale’s own Emma Stone. Austin described the exhibition as “crucial” to the progression of Native art in the art world because of stereotypes about both Native culture and the art created by Native people.

Austin said there is a general opinion of how Native art should look, but by bringing diverse Indigenous artists together in one exhibition, viewers can experience how there is no single definition of what art made by Native people looks like.

“We are human beings making art, and through our work, we talk about our life, existence and resilience,” Austin said. “As art lovers, we already know that art is a reflection of life, and we as Native artists are merely just trying to convey that.”

Jennifer McCabe, director and chief curator at SMoCA, noted that Kahlhamer is a nationally recognized artist who has thrived in the New York City art scene, but he’s also an Arizonan. He was born in Tucson and splits his time between New York City and Mesa.

As an artist, Kahlhamer has had two previous solo exhibitions at SMoCA: 2004’s “Let’s Walk West” and 2022’s “Swap Meet,” which included a travel trailer in the gallery and filled with his art. A small porch built onto the trailer served as a stage for performances throughout the exhibition’s run.

“Now we have the honor to get acquainted with the artists from Indigenous communities around the country who have piqued his interest,” McCabe said. “Part of his practice is the ‘Nomadic Studio,’ as he travels and sketches his journeys. Audiences will get a taste of that experience through the diverse array of artists included in this exhibition.”

Exhibition artists include Norman Akers, Nizhonniya Austin, Alison Bremner, Jaque Fragua, Raven Halfmoon, Elisa Harkins, Sky Hopinka, Terran Last Gun, Fox Maxy, New Red Order, Mali Obomsawin & Lokotah Sanborn, Sarah Rowe, Duane Slick and Tyrrell Tapaha. “Exploding Native Inevitable” is on view at SMoCA from Aug. 10, 2024, through Jan. 5, 2025. Following the Scottsdale run, it will move on to Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and then the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at Utah State University in Logan.

SMoCA — named “Best Art Museum” by the Phoenix New Times in the 2023 Best of Phoenix awards — is located at 7374 E. Second St., Scottsdale, Arizona 85251. It is open Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit for information.

Admission is $10–$12 for non-members; $7–$9 for students, seniors (65+) and veterans; and free for Scottsdale Arts ONE Members, healthcare workers, first responders, and patrons 18 and younger. Admission to the museum is pay-what-you-wish every Thursday and every second Saturday of the month. Save time and money by booking online at

“Exploding Native Inevitable” is organized by Bates College Museum of Art (Lewiston, Maine) with generous support provided to SMoCA by World Class Partner The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Scottsdale Arts is a regionally and nationally significant, multidisciplinary arts organization, offering an exceptional variety of programs through its six departments: Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), Scottsdale Public Art, Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation, Canal Convergence and Civic Center LIVE. Scottsdale Arts creates diverse, inspired arts experiences and outreach opportunities for the community while fostering active engagement with the arts among individuals, businesses, educational institutions and government agencies. Founded in 1999, SMoCA is an accredited and internationally recognized institution that encourages reflections and conversations about life through art. The museum produces and mediates creative expressions that lead to shared curiosity and meaning across a wide range of publics.

MEDIA PREVIEWS: Scottsdale Arts will offer media previews of each exhibition by appointment the day before they open. Contact Brian Passey (below) to schedule an appointment.

MEDIA: For interviews, photos or additional information, please contact:

Brian Passey
Senior Communications Manager
Scottsdale Arts

Phone: 480-874-4626