New to the Ackland: A Beadwork Study by Teri Greeves

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Green and red beads on a mottled red textile evoke ant tunnels and cedar branches

In Study: Ant Roots (2023), strands of green beads and garnets extend and branch down a piece of hemp silk vibrantly hand-dyed to fuchsia. From the upper right quadrant, a cast silver ant approaches the network of lines. Created by Teri Greeves, a Kiowa artist and self-described bead worker, this stretched canvas began as one of ten studies she created in preparation for a large-scale commission for the Denver Art Museum.

Greeves was recently on campus with her sister, metalworker Keri Ataumbi, when the two were Caldwell Family Artists in Residence in the Department of American Studies from April 8 through 12. Their visit culminated in a public discussion at the Ackland, but prior to that program, Greeves spoke at length in an interview about this work. In describing how she first planned this study as part of a narrative endeavor to depict lightning within the larger commission, she found the unpredictability of the dyeing process upended her traditional approach to artmaking: “I ended up being reactive to the materials in a way I had never been before in my life.” As such, it is now better considered a standalone piece, one in which she heeded the unexpected energies of the physical media and the final textures and hues that she was unable to anticipate. She decided the resulting forms were more akin to the underground networks made by ants, and she emphasized that association by adding the cast silver ant created by her sister. The ant has significance in Kiowa origin stories, and in reflecting on the ultimate composition, Greeves stated, “The roots resemble the ant tunnels, which also resemble cedar branches (medicine plant), which also resemble river/water systems, which also resemble our circulatory system. Rootedness is interconnectivity, and it is everywhere in all of everything. Ant tells us so, she showed us.”

Lauren Turner, associate curator for contemporary art and special projects

Image credit:
Teri Greeves, Kiowa, born 1970, Study: Ant Roots, 2023, hemp silk dyed with cochineal, glass beads, garnets, and cast sterling silver ant by Keri Ataumbi, 16 × 16 in. (40.6 × 40.6 cm). Gift of the Caldwell Family Fund in memory of Jenny Tone-Pah-Hote, TC 744. ©Teri Greeves