Collections Spotlight with Leah Mata Fragua

by | Jul 21, 2020 | America Meredith, Coe Collaborations, Collections Programming

Leah Mata Fragua is a member of the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini (the people of tiłhini) Northern Chumash Tribe, located on the Central California Coast. She is a professor in Indigenous Liberal Studies Department of the Institute of American Indian Arts.

She is also a visual artist focused on living forms of regalia and jewelry rooted in California Indian aesthetics and techniques. Her place-based art is grounded in an understanding of the past that is interdependent with the future and her relationship to her homelands.

Mata Fragua has earned top honors such as the Autry Indian Market Best in Diverse Cultural Arts (2012), Heard Museum Guild Fair First Place Traditional Attire (2013, 2016), Heard Fair Best of Personal Attire Classification (2018), Santa Fe Indian Market Second Place Personal Attire (2018). Mata Fragua was a Smithsonian Artist Research fellow in 2011, and a Master Artist for Alliance of California Traditional Arts in 2013. Most recently, Mata Fragua was the 2020 Eric and Barbara Dobkin Native Artist Fellow at the School for Advanced Research.

Mata Fragua’s education, which includes a B.A. in Anthropology and a M.A. in Cultural Sustainability, has afforded her access to various collections and archives to further her understanding of the technical and material expertise of yak tityu tityu (The People) and resisting the hindered access for community members whose relatives’ works are held in academic collections.

Most of the materials needed to create traditional Northern Chumash dance regalia and other material culture are site-specific and can require years of planning to complete each piece. The importance of gathering materials seasonally and with respect for the limits of each environment, even before they can be processed and then used, is a practice she engages in collaboration with homeland and her family.

Mata Fragua is committed to environmental issues that directly impact the ability to gather materials needed to sustain her artistic practice. Finding ways to assure each generation can sustain these art forms is an integral part of Mata Fragua’s process, and she incorporates her artistic practice with her intention as an educator, researcher, and community member.

Collections Spotlight, a program developed in partnership with First American Art Magazine, is a free interactive, online discussion that brings together the public, scholars, and Native artists who select artworks from the Coe’s collection to interpret and discuss.

Recent Articles