Dec 13 2019


7:00 pm - 10:00 pm


Free and open to the public

Joe Harjo: The Only Certain Way

Joe Harjo: The Only Certain Way
Friday December 13, 2019 – February 8, 2020
Opening Reception Friday December 13, 7-10 PM

Sala Diaz | 517 Stieren SA, TX 78210
Media Contact | Anjali Gupta
Phone | 972-900-0047


The Only Certain Way is a collection of works that speak to the forced assimilation of Indigenous Peoples to Christianity. The 16th century Spanish explorer and conqueror Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca kept a journal of his experiences as the first European to step foot in the Southwest. Therein he is quoted saying, in reference to religious conversion and assimilation, Indians “must be won by kindness, the only certain way.” Kindness was thus weaponized as a tool against Natives in order to shift their beliefs.

The Only Certain Way uncovers the lack of visibility of Native American culture, identity and lived experience, due to both the absence of proper representation in mainstream culture and the undermining of Native belief systems by way of mistrust and deceit veiled in sympathy and salvation. The complex and undeniable relationship between Native history and United States history exposes the ways tribal identity has been dismantled, grouped and homogenized to conceal diverse collections of individuals and communities. The works in the exhibition questions the religious belief systems still so intricately woven into past generations—the results of being stripped of spiritual practice and tradition. Forced colonization and assimilation to Christian-based religions led to a century of whitewashing culture and customs and removing access to ancestors and their omnipresent spirits.

I am interested in identifying the line between the ideas and religious notions that have been forced upon Natives and the resulting adaptations of non-Native customs. Assimilation creates a crisis of identity and strips bare inherent beliefs, creating a base upon which to build a new system of faith. This disruption of self, brought on by conversion, is then only remedied by the promises of “truth” made by Christianity.
The sculptures, photographs, prints and videos in the exhibition visualize the historical divide between acceptance and resistance, speaking to what is forced upon as opposed to what is created as a response.

Joe Harjo, 2019


Joe Harjo is a San Antonio-based artist born in Oklahoma City, OK, and a tribal member of the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond. Harjo works as a multidisciplinary artist, choosing his medium based on his concept. His work often uses humor to tackle hard subjects such as Native American identity, representation and culture. Recent exhibitions include: Texas, We’re Listening, Brownsville Museum of Art, Brownsville, TX; We’re Still Here: Native American Artists Then and Now, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX; Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists in the Path of the Butterfly, Blue Star Contemporary, San Antonio, TX; Reimagining the Third Space, KCAI Crossroads Gallery: Center for Contemporary Practice, Kansas City, MO; and re/thinking photography: Conceptual Photography from Texas, FotoFest, Houston, TX. He recently curated a series of films created by Native Americans at the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio. Harjo is a board member of the Muscogee Arts Association, a nonprofit organization that advocates for living Muscogee artists, a board member of Texas Photographic Society and teaches photography and visual literacy at the Southwest School of Art.

Image: Indian Holding a Weapon (Kindness), 2019; Performance print; 22 x 30 in


Sala Diaz, a 501(c) 3 exhibition space, is an experimental venue for contemporary art established in 1995. Located in the heart of the Cultural Arts District, Sala Diaz provides a venue for the exhibition of new and challenging work and fosters lasting exchange between our city and creative communities abroad. Housed in the same residential structure as the gallery, The Casa Chuck Residency is an invitational program through which Sala Diaz provides critics, curators and writers a haven for varied creative pursuits. Initiated in 2011, the residency honors the legacy of visionary artist, arts advocate, cultural maven and bon vivant Chuck Ramirez who died the previous year. Official residents spend one month living in Ramirez’ former abode, exploring and interacting with the surrounding arts community. Sala/Casa hosts a wide array of arts professionals in-between exhibitions and residencies including artists, critics, curators, filmmakers, musicians and scholars.

Sala Diaz is supported by H-E-B’s Community Investment Program, The Lifschutz Foundation, The Smothers Foundation and numerous individuals including Mike Casey, Sonya Dawson, Alejandro Diaz, Lorena & Joel Dunlap, Nina Hassele, Stacey Hill, Reagan Johns, Trish Marcus & the Ramirez Family, Chris Sauter, Patty Ortiz, Brad Parman & Tim Seeliger, Justin Parr, Patricia Ruiz-Healy, Ethel Shipton, Hills Snyder, Don Thomas & Lara Flynn Boyle and The Family & Friends of Peter Zubiate.

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