“Growth of a Transberry” by Geo Neptune won a pair of awards at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ABBE MUSEUM

Wabanaki artists win big

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Jeremy Frey, Passamaquoddy, won first place in Division B baskets (natural or commercial fibers, any form) and Sarah Sockbeson, Penobscot, won second place in the same division at the 59th annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market on March 4-5, which draws nearly 15,000 visitors and more than 600 of the nation’s most outstanding and successful American Indian artists. Geo Neptune, Passamaquoddy, won Honorable Mention in Division A baskets (natural fibers and cultural forms) and a Judges Choice award in the same division.

Jeremy Frey and his prize-winning basket. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ABBE MUSEUM

“I’m just so honored to have my work recognized on the national stage,” said Frey. “It’s more than anyone can ask for, and I am very humbled by this win. It’s recognition like this that keeps me inspired and motivated to create new works.”

Frey, who comes from a long line of Native weavers, specializes in ash fancy baskets, a traditional form of Wabanaki weaving. In 2011, Frey won Best of Show at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market and the Sante Fe Indian Market, the largest Native American Indian arts market. It is only the second time that someone has won both shows in the same year, and it was the first time in the Sante Fe Indian Market’s 90-plus year history that a basket achieved the highest honor. His work has been featured at the Smithsonian, Museum of Art and Design in New York City and in many other museums around the country.

Sockbeson apprenticed with Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot, in 2004 and learned the history, techniques and art that has become modern Native basketry. Soon thereafter, museums and collectors across the country began to recognize her incredible talent. Her unique style incorporates many different elements of traditional Wabanaki technique, and she combines that with innovative colors to create a fresh, new approach to a timeless and beautiful art form.

Former Abbe Museum Educator Geo Neptune took home ribbons for Honorable Mention in Division A baskets (natural fibers and cultural forms) and a Judges Choice award in the same division for their “Growth of a Transberry” basket.

“I will be examining my own gender identity and sexuality through my art in the future, especially since I just came out as trans/genderqueer and am making baskets under my new name,” said Neptune.

“My winning basket is dedicated to the seven trans women who have been murdered in 2017 – Mesha, Jamie Lee, JoJo, Keke, Chyna, Ciara and Jaquarrius – and the hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirits, and it represents my growth as an artist. It felt important to do this piece this way, with the spiral of sweetgrass – mother earth’s hair – connecting them, representing the intersectionality of my identities. I want it to be a message to two-spirit youth now and in the future: you are not alone, and you are loved.”

Other Wabanaki artists invited to attend the juried fair were Abbe Museum Trustee Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot, Molly Neptune Parker, Passamaquoddy, Jeremy Frey, Passamaquoddy, Gal Tomah, Passamaquoddy, Emma Soctomah, Passamaquoddy, Theresa Secord, Penobscot, Gina Brooks, Maliseet, Jason Brown and Donna Brown, Penobscot, with Decontie & Brown, and Alannah Barnes, Passamaquoddy.

A complete list of winners can be found at heard.org/news.

The mission of the Abbe Museum, Maine’s first and only Smithsonian Affiliate, is to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit. The Abbe works closely with the Wabanaki people to share their stories, history and culture with a broader audience. With a collection of over 50,000 archaeological, historic and contemporary objects, the museum’s collections conservation program is recognized nationally as a model for museums. The Abbe holds the largest and best-documented collection of Maine Native American basketry in any museum. Visit www.abbemuseum.org.