Home Doll market New York Met buys artist Crow’s birthplace | Local News

New York Met buys artist Crow’s birthplace | Local News

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After her baby carrier won first place for beadwork at the Heard Museum Art Market, Elias Jade NotAfraid received a phone call that would change her life.

A curator from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was on the other end of the call and wanted to purchase his creation for the museum’s permanent collection.

“When I hung up, I was like, ‘Oh my God! ‘” NotAfraid said, adding that it took a while for reality to set in.

NotAfraid, a 32-year-old Crow artist, had been working on the crib, called “Life After Death,” for years. When he first had the idea to create it in 2018, he immediately started collecting materials. NotAfraid visited taxidermists, butchers and pawnshops to collect 200 ivory elk teeth. Each male elk has two ivory teeth.






Artist Elias Jade NotAfraid presents the cradle he took over two years to make.


Provided by Elias Jade NotAfraid


“Moose teeth are like diamonds in Crow culture,” NotAfraid said. “Once an elk decomposes, all that’s left are the ivory teeth.”

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He visited vintage doll shops, trading posts and antique stores to buy vintage glass beads, some made in the 1800s, and he collected 85 white weasel ermine tails. It took NotAfraid two years just to collect the materials for the project. He used smoked deer and elk hides to support the board, which is 48 inches tall.

Native Americans used cradles to swaddle and protect their newborn babies. NotAfraid said most of the boards had a leather strap, so babies, wrapped in blankets, could lie in the crib while hanging from a horse as their tribe travelled.

NotAfraid’s full array invokes traditional designs but with a modern twist. The beaded headboard features bright orange, red and yellow flowers inspired by a design NotAfraid found in her great-grandmother’s house. The bottom flower has a skull in the center, which NotAfraid says symbolizes death and rebirth.

“When we die, we go into the ground,” he said. “And the cycle of life continues again. This painting pays homage to those animals who died to do so.

NotAfraid said the Met was not the only museum interested in the birthplace. The Art Institute of Chicago wanted to buy it, but there were complications regarding the use of ivory. The Smithsonian also reached out to him after showing the board at the Santa Fe Indian Market last year. But because the Smithsonian is a federal institution, NotAfraid said the process involved a lot of paperwork and personal information it couldn’t provide.







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The Birthplace of Elias Jade NotAfraid, “Life After Death”.


Provided by Elias Jade NotAfraid


“I live at Lodge Grass on the ground floor,” NotAfraid said, referring to the Crow reservation. “I’m in the mountains working from home, and I tried to register my business, and the system didn’t recognize my address on the ground. It was just difficult.

NotAfraid said he always hoped the piece would end up in a museum. In the Met’s permanent collection, his birthplace will be accompanied by ancient artifacts and paintings and sculptures by major artists. It will be exhibited in 2023.

“To me, it just shows that anyone can come from a very dark place and do something good,” NotAfraid said, adding that he had struggled with opioid addiction for years. “I used beading as a tool to cope.”

NotAfraid said he hopes this achievement will inspire others.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “I’m from Lodge Grass, in the middle of nowhere. And my job is in the Met! For my peers and all of my tribe, it shows that the opportunities are there, and you just have to be passionate and go for it.

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