Jeffrey Gibson: They Come From Fire


They Come From Fire by Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972), a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent, celebrates and amplifies the presence of the Native community in Portland and Oregon. His work engages with recent events calling for social justice and an increasing acknowledgment of the presence of Native people and their histories. By inviting Indigenous and other community members to stand literally on a pedestal, Gibson reinscribes these contested sites of strife with positivity and new meanings. This choice was
purposeful. Pedestals are meant to venerate and honor; Gibson chose to center and elevate members of our community who embody leadership, love and the future. While the format and the messages on the glass panels echo protest posters with defiant and bold statements, his words underscore the importance of relationships with people in the present, our ancestors, our culture, and the land.

This two-part project, which includes TIMELINE installed on the front windows of the Museum, is also in dialogue with Gibson’s artistic ancestor, the midcentury Dakota painter Oscar Howe. Although they come from different generations, there is a synergy between the two artists whose work reveals a shared passion for both abstraction and vibrant color as well as cultural affirmation and celebration. As a Native artist who has forged his own path while remaining true to his artistic heritage, Gibson also has a vision that burns brightly.

Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art

“I want the overall work to point to narratives that may not be popularly known outside of these local communities and to celebrate the photographed individuals as leaders and innovators in the world today.” —Jeffrey Gibson

Jeffrey Gibson

(Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Cherokee descent, b. 1972), TIMELINE, 2022

As part of his site-responsive installation They Come From Fire, artist Jeffrey Gibson Indigenizes the Portland Art Museum through color, design, and text with TIMELINE. Using the windows on a building with a long history as a place that celebrates art and culture, the work foregrounds the history of Portland and the region, creating a selected timeline of moments that impacted Native people for over 200 years, both personal and well known. Recent years include individual histories and events sourced from a photography project in May 2022 featuring local Indigenous, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ individuals and their communities, as well as friends and allies. “TIMELINE is an idea that I have been thinking about for a few years. The collective terminology used to discuss and describe Indigenous people does not distinguish us as being different from nation to nation, community to community, and as individuals. The personal dates reflect an individual’s experience in the context of larger events. I want people to understand Indigenous
people as unique individuals who are part of larger communities who have survived grand, traumatic, and joyous events. I consider TIMELINE as an archive that people can continue to add to in order to acknowledge the immensity of documented and undocumented histories and how they are interwoven.” —Jeffrey Gibson

[Artwork Description: The Belluschi Building of the Portland Art Museum is a long, horizontal, red brick edifice with three, tall center doorways flanked by a set of sixty long facade windows that are almost the same length of the building itself.

The center portion of the building is set forward from the wings on each side. Brick planters with clipped topiary evergreens stand in front of the side windows that flank the wide, white front steps. The red brick is capped by a wide band of white masonry at the flat roof level. The windows on each wing and those above the center doors have been filled with blocks of color arranged in semi rainbow order and contain text detailing the history of the region that impacted Native Americans for over 200 years.

The windows at left and right of the center doors contain blocks of bright colors that are bisected diagonally to form triangles. Colors such as turquoise blue, purple, red, violets, orange, yellow, green, teal, blue and indigo span of windows and are overlayed with the timeline text. The three transom windows over the center doors are also filled with large blocks of color. The middle set of three stacked windows features three stacked upward pointing triangles against red background bordered by two narrow strips of black and white elongated triangle patterns. The windows at right and left feature the same pattern with downward pointing triangles in tallow, green and blue against red. They also have the same black and white border.

Timeline Text:

1805 Lewis and Clark arrive in what is now called Oregon which becomes a state in 1859.

1811 Fort George, the first permanent European settlement, established in what is now called Oregon. 

April 9, 1818 Jeanne Al-Ghamdi’s ancestors receive land at Tellico Plains (per 1817 treaty), which was abandoned to continue moving West in 1828.

1830 Indian Removal Act signed into law by President Andrew Jackson.

1830-34 Malaria kills 80-90% of remaining Indigenous populations of the Portland Basin and Willamette Valley.

1835 Methodist missionary Jason Lee establishes first mission and manual labor school for American Indians in Oregon, which eventually becomes Willamette University.

1838 Jeanne Al-Ghamdi’s last ancestors leave their homeland to walk the Trail of Tears.

1847 The Cayuse War, an armed conflict taking place in the Northwestern United States begins in 1847 and continues through 1855.

1853-56 Indian Agent George Ambrose moves 325 “Indian Refugees” from Table Rock Reservation in southern Oregon to the Grand Ronde Reservation.

1850 Donald Macleod, a white settler, attempts to claim land in the heart of Tualatins’ Territory. Chief Kayacach tears down Macleod’s cabin.

1864 According to the Treaty of 1864, the Klamath and Modoc Tribes, along with the Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians, cede their titles to approximately 22,000,000 acres of land to U.S.

1892 Portland Art Museum is founded.

1917 Lynette Howes’ grandparents move to Tammany, Idaho from the Cherokee reservation.

June 18, 1941 Jim Pepper, renowned Jazz musician, is born and later raised in Portland, Oregon.

1944 Bill Ray, 13 months old, moves to Estacada from Chiloquin.

April 11, 1945 Ray Hoffer fights in World War II helping to liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany.

1948 D’na Chase’s Cherokee Grandparents are married in Oregon.

August 13, 1954 Pres. Eisenhower approves Public Law 588 ending federal supervision over the trust and property of Indigenous tribes in western Oregon.

1956 U.S. Congress establishes the Indian Relocation Act, ending the protected trust status of Indian-owned lands; Bureau of Indian Affairs begins a voluntary relocation program.

March 10, 1957 Dalles Dam Reservoir floods Celilo Falls and a portion of Celilo Village.

March 1963 Helen Miner works to establish and ratify the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe. 

1970 Native American Rehabilitation Association (NARA) founded in Portland Oregon.

1974 Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) founded by parent and elder volunteers.

1977 The Siletz Tribe is restored.

1982 The Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe is restored.

November 22, 1983 U.S. Congress passes the Grand Ronde Restoration Act creating the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

October 17, 1984 The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw are restored.

1984 Delores Dee Pigsley becomes chairwoman of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

August 26, 1986 The Klamath Tribes have their trust status restored. 

June 1989 U.S. Congress passes the Coquille Restoration Act. 

1990 The Indian Arts and Crafts Act is established.

1996 Gladys Bolton becomes Siletz’s Tribal Whipwoman and maintains this role for many years. 

1998 Man Red moves to Portland, Oregon.

October 1998 Bill Ray marries Lawretta Ray.

2000 Hector Hernandez moves to Portland to fulfill his dream of being an artist.

2002 Confluence begins connecting the history of living cultures with the ecology of the Columbia River system through Indigenous voices.

2005 Jennifer Rose Marie Serna establishes Wapato Island Farm.

2008 Lillian Pitt creates a welcome gate honoring Chinook women for Confluence.

2008 Hector Hernandez overcomes city regulations and paints his first mural.

2009 Latino Art NOW is established.

July 2010 IDEAL PDX is founded.

August 2010 Carla Rossi emerges from the primordial slime.

January 2012 Deana Dartt is appointed Curator of Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum.

2013 Man Red graduates from Portland State University.

Sept 2015 Tilikum Crossing: Bridge of the People opens in Portland spanning across the Willamette River. 

2016 Marsha Small discovers unmarked graves at Chemawa Indian School.

2017 U.S. Department of Education partners with nine tribes to develop curriculum,  “Essential Understandings of Native Americans in Oregon.”

2018 Silas Hoffer becomes the first ~ out ~ Two Spirit/Transgender/Gay member in their family.

February 2019 Two spirits, Spider and Shell, come together.

May 15, 2019 The day I was emancipated (divorced) and began to live my authentic Black and intersectional life.

July 1, 2019 Kathleen Ash-Milby joins the Portland Art Museum as Curator of Native American Art.

August 2019 Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde purchase a 23-acre property at Willamette Falls.

2019 The Numberz Aux/Mute Gallery opens at Portland Art Museum.

2019 Heather Ford’s daughter is born and continues the matriarchal line in their family.

March 2020 The World Health Organization declares Covid-19 a global pandemic. The virus disproportionately affects Indigenous communities.

Oct 11-12, 2020 Lincoln monument is toppled.

June 17, 2021 Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday. 

February 2022 Erin Grant joins PAM as the IMLS Curatorial & Community Partnerships Fellow

June 24, 2022 U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.

October 15, 2022 Jeffrey Gibson’s exhibition They Come From Fire opens to the public.

Community Photoshoot

[Artwork Description: The Sculpture Court is a large, oversized space with soaring ceilings. Twelve, large multicolored glass panels are suspended from the high ceilings via black cables. They are arranged in a grid pattern; four across and three down. Spotlights sitting on a low platform are aimed at the glass panels allowing light and color to pass through them and project on to the wall behind them. The tall A framed shaped wall is 45 feet tall and is covered in strips of repeating black and white photos depicting various individuals and groups posed on monument pedestal in a city park. Color and light projected from the glass panels creates kaleidoscope of pattern, color and shape over the black and white photos.

Glass Signs:

  1. Dancing, Singing, Drumming: Horizontal rectangular glass panel featuring a large yellow-green circle at its center with the words “Dancing Singing Drumming” in red cursive stacked in the middle. Surrounding the circle is a pattern comprised of smaller rectangles divided in half diagonally to form multicolored triangles. Colors are randomly paired: pale blue with olive green, royal blue with pale blue, deep red with rust red, olive with rust red and so on.
  2. The Future is Present: Horizontal rectangular glass panel featuring the words “The Future Is Present” in bright blue cursive. The phrase is placed over a background that is divided into half vertically showing two color ways of a plaid pattern. At left the diagonally placed plaid is comprised of red, light green and yellow stripes. Where the red and green stripes intersect, a fourth color, a deeper red is created. On the right side, the same pattern is reproduced using bright blue, red and dark blue. The fourth color produced by the overlap is an almost black.
  3. They Protect the Water: Horizontal, rectangular glass panel featuring a pale green circle at its center with the words “They Protect The Water” in red cursive stacked in the middle. Surrounding the circle is a pattern comprised of alternating red and black stripes placed to form an X beneath the circle. The red and black stripes appear to radiate from the center circle.
  4. Our Bodies, Our Rules: Horizontal, rectangular glass panel featuring a center circle that almost touches the outer edge of the work at top and bottom. The circle is made up of concentric rings beginning with a thick outer ring in black that comprises much of the circle’s width, followed by smaller rings in deep browns that lighten to a peach circle at center. Over the larger circle are the words “Our Bodies Our Rules” in bright yellow cursive. The words are stacked but offset so the two “Ours” appear at left and “Body” and “Rules” are at right. This larger circle surrounded by a red and bright blue checked pattern.
  5. Their Children Stand Tall: Horizontal, rectangular glass panel featuring the words “Their Children Stand Tall” in deep blue cursive. The words are stacked but offset so “Their” and “Stand” appear at left and “Children” and “Tall” are at right. The words appear over a background that is divided in half vertically showing two colorways of the same pattern. Each smaller upright rectangle is divided diagonally top to bottom to form four smaller triangles. The triangles along the outer left and right edges are further divided in two. Colors in the left rectangle are clockwise from top: Peachy yellow, rust red, deep red, forest green, sky blue. Colors in the right rectangle are clockwise from top: sky blue, deep pink, golden yellow, purple and forest green.
  6. They Rewrite Their Story: Horizontal, rectangular glass panel featuring the words “They Rewrite Their Story” stacked, in white cursive. The words are flanked by two half circles made up of a bright blue outer ring, a black center ring and a red half circle at center. The white cursive words slightly overlap the large half circles. The center of the panel is filled with stripes of various colors. From top they are: forest green, black, golden yellow, tan, bright blue, peach, black, forest green, green, rust red, sky blue, rust red, black, sky blue, pink, blue-gray, black, rust red, light red, tan.
  7. They Come From Fire: Horizontal, rectangular glass panel featuring the words “They Come From Fire” in deep red cursive. The words are stacked but offset so “They” and “From” are at left and “come” and “Fire” are at right. The panel is divided in half horizontally with the upper portion comprising about two thirds the panel. A large half circle with a deep red center followed by a deep orange ring and a golden yellow outer ring is set against bright blue ground while the words “They” and “Come” over lay this. The bottom third of the panel is comprised of overlapping, elongated diamond patterns in orange, red, yellow, orange and pink. The color combination and pattern suggest flames and movement. The words “From” and “Fire” overlap both the upper and lower portions.
  8. Speak To Your Ancestors: Horizontal, rectangular glass panels featuring the words “Speak To Your Ancestors” in red cursive. The words are stacked with “Speak To” over “Your” and “Ancestors”. The words overlay a quilt-like configuration of colorful triangles placed so that the points seem to radiate from the center. The colors on the left side are predominantly pink with red, teal, navy, black, royal blue and apple green. At right, the colors are predominantly green, red, royal blue, black, navy and apple green.
  9. They Choose Love: Horizontal, rectangular glass panel featuring the words “They Choose Love” stacked in yellow cursive. At right, a large red, half circle almost reaches the center of the panel. At left, seven, narrow long, triangle shapes jut from the left edge and end at the center. The triangle shapes and half circle over lay a bright pink background.]


Jeanne Webber Al-Ghamdi and Susan Marmolejo Kipp; DJ Ambush; Lukas, Erin, Eva, Ramona, Jett, and Peggy-Sue Angus; Kathleen Ash-Milby and Whya; Ae Ashley; Simona BearCub, Allen, and Amanda Stubits; Trevino, Jade, and Moses Brings Plenty; Nicole Charley, Kevin Jackson, Jeremy Danny, and Jordan Jackson; D’na Walela Chase; Melissa J. Clah; René D. Deras and Dirty Corty; Pedro Adan Dominguez; Angennette Escobar; Marcus, Nicole, and Gemma Fischer; Heather Renee Ford; Victor Hugo Garza and Eliza Rinaldi; Estela Garzón/Instagram: estela_La_artista; Jeffrey Gibson; Sofia Ofelía Gonzalez; John Goodwin; Erin Grant (Colorado River Indian Tribes) and Brenna Two Bears (Ho-Chunk, Diné, Standing Rock); Hector H. Hernandez; William Hernandez; Midori Hirose; Silas and Ardy Hoffer; Tyler Hogan (Cherokee Nation); Lynnette Howes and Donna Gault; Anthony Hudson / Carla Rossi; Brittain Jarrett Jackson; Kan Jones; Jeannie Kenmotsu and Robert Hunt; Chanté Avery Kmetz (@Skypyramid); Grace Kook-Anderson and Dennis Anderson; Chey Ama-a-nahk Kuzma; jess lagunas, Mariel Del Rincon, and Tekpatl; Chenoa Landry, Charles, Kobe, and Migizi Norcross, and Andreas Miller Landry; Tiffany Koyama Lane, Tim, Kesey, and Clay Lane; Julie, Andrew G., Benjamin G., and Evelyn Langford; La Lyra Trenice Edmond Lovato; Paul Lumley; Brenda Mallory, Abby Hall, Presley, Stella, Ellis, and Corrina Krakow; maximiliano; Renea Menchaca (Pascua Yaqui/White Mtn. Apache); Drew Michael (Yup’ik/Inupiaq/Polish); Lisa S. Neusihin and Mariana Robins; Lillian Pitt; Maddox Princeton; Myka Rasmussen; Bill Ray; Man Red; Logan M. Ridenour-Starnes; Abelina Rose, Vanessa Orange, Tah-lee, Mah tahn dau, and AH-EE, Bugz/’toh goodle; Mick Rose, Jennifer Rose Marie Serna, Jullian Roberson (Choctaw, Apache, African American), Monique Lopez (Apache, Aztec, Mayan, Basque), Apache Roberson (Choctaw, Apache, African American), Nia Miah Malone, Brenda Elrod-Tumbaga, Ziarah Roberson (Choctaw, Apache, African American), Elijah Roberson (Apache, Choctaw, African American), Andre Roberson (African American), Kaimani Tumbaga, Francisco Luis Loha (Mescalero Apache), Melanie Charley, Jolene R. Hall-Lopez (Mescalero Apache Tribe), SHALAYA WILLIAMS, Michaila Konig Taylor, Amber Marie Star Brown (Anishinaabe), Wren Gonzalez, and Kelly Gonzalez (Citizen Cherokee Nation); SCARSINBLOOM, Dezarey Atwana Marie Francisco, Cerise Mary Palmanteer (Sabodi), a.c. ramírez de arellaño, Bird Cardona, and Isabel LaCourse; Ximena Keogh Serrano, Paola M. Santiago Del Castillo, and Andres Mendoza; Neq Way> Sestols (“Green Thumb”); Gabe Sheoships (Cayuse); Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos); Dee Smith; Marie Watt, Maxine and Evelyn McIsaac, and Paige Priest; Terresa White; Trevian White; EZRA REDEAGLE WHITMAN, Gillian Murr.

Photography by Brian Barlow. Community liaison: Erin Grant.