This is the second time since 2019 that WBUR’s The ARTery presents their top 25 Greater Boston artists of color who stand out for the work they are making. Each one brings tenacity and rigor to their art, whether it’s on the stage, on a canvas, or served up on a plate. They uplift those in their orbit, and deliver an incisive perspective on the world around them.
Erin Genia was born in 1978, the year the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed. The law at last allowed Indigenous people to practice the religions of their own cultures. Genia, a tribal member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of South Dakota, sees her artistic mission as one of many efforts to make up for the centuries of assimilation and cultural repression that preceded the passage of that law. Her work, she says, is guided by Dakota philosophies, particularly the idea of mitakuye oyasin, which loosely translates to “everything is related.” In this framework, “we’re related to the earth itself, to the rocks, to the air,” Genia says. “And because of that, everything has, or should have, its own agency, and everything should be treated with respect.”
Genia is a multidisciplinary artist with a background in sculpture and painting. She came to the Boston area to attend MIT’s Art, Culture and Technology Program, where her studies focused on Native American art in public space. “There’s a great deal of erasure of native and Indigenous people that happens in public space,” Genia says — like the historical markers peppered throughout the New England landscape, which so often trade in falsehoods and colonial mythology. In a GIF she created, Genia critiques these markers with lacerating bluntness. Phrases flash inside the image of a sign topped by the Massachusetts state seal: “INDIANS LIVED HERE NOW ITS A STRIP MALL;” “YOUR GENOCIDE WAS INCIDENTAL;” “SORRY.” The words generate their own disquieting rhythm, demanding that we not look away.
Other The ARTery 25 artists connected to the ACT community include Elisa Hamilton, Elizabeth James Perry, and Nicole L’Huillier.