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Travels Pretty
Photograph: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund

Check out these colorful art pieces on display at 100 bus shelters around NYC

They are a tribute to tribe women.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan

New York City bus riders will be treated to a pretty awesome exhibition of colorful works across 100 different bus shelters. Dubbed "Travels Pretty," the show is the first public art exhibit by Wendy Red Star and it is comprised of 12 different pieces. 

Travels Pretty
Photograph: Mel Taing, Courtesy of Public Art Fund

The subject of the works are parfleches, which, according to an official press release, are "vibrantly painted rawhide bags made by certain nomadic tribes of the North American Great Plains." The intricate cases, traditionally made by women as a mode of self-expression, were strapped on horses and dogs and used by tribes to store and transport their food and personal possessions while traveling across the United States.

Red Star herself was raised on the Apsáalooke reservation in Montana, so the topic is clearly dear to her.

For the exhibition, Red Star looked at parfleches through the eyes of major museums that are home to the various tribes' cultural material. 

"Mining the archives of the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian [and others], she meticulously researched the lore and making of parfleches," reads the press release. "Each work includes handwritten texts with phrases referencing different aspects such as their history, how they were used, descriptions of the designs, how they were made and what the pigments are made from."

Travels Pretty
Photograph: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund

In a tribute to the thousands of women who created the parfleches but were never credited for the work, Red Star actually titled each one of her 12 paintings after women from the Apsáalooke tribe, whose names she found in the 1885 Crow Census. Those monikers include "Makes the Lodge Good," "Paints Pretty," "Painted Red Shows," "Brings Things Herself" and "Buffalo Woman," among others.

The project is a nation-wide one. In addition to New York, the paintings are on display at bus shelters in Chicago and Boston as well.

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