The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (the “Museums”) are pleased to announce the exclusive West Coast presentation of Jules Tavernier and the Elem Pomo. The exhibition steps into the 1870–1880s, a period when white settlers continued to claim and mine lands in California and the West that had been inhabited by Indigenous populations for thousands of years. During this time, landscape painter Jules Tavernier journeyed across the United States, portraying the ceremonies and gatherings he witnessed in the Indigenous homelands and the awe-inspiring beauty of the contested landscapes. Through his compositions and the accounts of Native art historians and cultural practitioners, the exhibition broadens perspectives on the West and highlights the resilience of Indigenous populations.
“Jules Tavernier and the Elem Pomo is a timely exhibition that brings alternative perspectives to narratives that have dominated the interpretation of American history and art from this period,” states Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “With insights added from the Elem Pomo community, Tavernier’s Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse at Clear Lake, California reveals a more complex story of a moment in time, bringing to light the impact that Western expansion had on the Elem Pomo community in Northern California and highlighting the resilience and significant heritage of this community.
Jules Tavernier and the Elem Pomo has special resonance for Robert Geary, Elem Pomo tribal citizen and ceremonial roundhouse leader, who states: "Through this exhibition I hope to educate the world about the beauty of my people and my village. The Elem Xe-xwan (ceremonial roundhouse) still exists today with the ceremonies and the Elemfo (Elem people) whom Tavernier painted in 1878.’”
Alongside Tavernier’s recently rediscovered masterpiece Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse at Clear Lake, California (1878), more than 70 works will be presented, including paintings, prints, watercolors, and photographs by Tavernier, as well as representations of Pomo peoples by his contemporaries. An extraordinary display of over 40 pieces of Pomo basketry and regalia, along with a documentary film highlighting the Native context of Tavernier’s canvas, will celebrate the enduring culture and artistry of Pomo peoples.
The exhibition is copresented with Elem Pomo cultural leader and regalia maker Robert Geary; Dry Creek Pomo scholar Sherrie Smith-Ferri, PhD; and Eastern Pomo artist and curator Meyo Marrufo; with additional contributions from Arthur Amiotte, Oglala Lakota artist and historian; and Healoha Johnston, curator of Asian Pacific American women’s cultural history at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.