Natalie Ball
Shed a Tear, Running Deer
24 Jun – 26 Aug 2022
The Upstairs at 39 Walker


Natalie Ball, Shed a Tear, Running Deer, Installation view, Bortolami, The Upstairs, New York, NY, 2022

Ball’s most recent works, on view here, have widened the story-telling dynamic at play in the artist’s practice, by employing the character of Deer Woman, an avatar for the artist. According to the artist, this embodied persona is self-determined and is acknowledged by most Tribes of North America. And yet, like Ball, she has recently been elected to Tribal council, and is asked to be acknowledged by her Tribe and the US government by quantifying her blood. It is nevertheless within this new official role and through these artworks that she explores self-determination, new authority, and collective responsibility, taking on no less than the federal government in her waged fight to regain the rights to the water on which the Klamath Tribe’s survival depends.

Ball’s work invites the viewer to reconstruct the hybridity of signs which populate her objects. In Sheriff’s Star, the brim of a sheriff’s hat is elongated through a quilted star motif. The fabric’s pattern doubles as the symbol of the officer’s badge, so that the latter’s authority is usurped as a symbol for Indigenous self determination. Lightning bolts and stars populate the intricate surfaces of Ball’s work, calling to mind ancestral knowledge and the celestial forces which are always already written into the fabric of life. These recurring symbols are borrowed from ancient surfaces, from basket weaving to petroglyphs, and secure the artist with a language with which she inscribes her narrative onto a larger shared history.


Installation view of displayed artwork titled Sling Shot

Sling Shot, 2022

Installation view of displayed artwork titled Sheriff’s Star

Sheriff’s Star, 2022

Installation view of displayed artwork titled Deer Woman and the 100th Selfie

Deer Woman and the 100th Selfie, 2022

Installation view of displayed artwork titled Deer Woman’s New Medicine (unbundled)

Deer Woman’s New Medicine (unbundled), 2022

Installation view of displayed artwork titled Klamath Land Back Fuckers

Klamath Land Back Fuckers, 2021