Wendy Red Star, Walks Pretty, 2022.

With summer’s end just around the corner, be sure to enjoy some of New York City’s best public art installations this September while the weather remains ideal for walking outside. Much of the artwork on display this month draws from the rich cultural diversity of New York City. Viewers of Wendy Red Star’s painting series Travels Pretty can learn more about the history of Native American women while Somos Uno provides insight into the disparate cultures that make up the District 25 community. Head to Montefiore Square to marvel at a public mural representing the essence of the Hamilton Heights community or Times Square to view Midnight Moments‘ new film on the connections between bodies of water and living beings.

1. Travels Pretty across New York City bus shelters

Wendy Red Star, Walks Pretty, 2022. Photo by Nicholas Knight. Courtesy of the Public Art Fund.

Located across 300 JCDecaux bus shelters in New York City, Chicago, and Boston is artist Wendy Red Star’s 12-piece acrylic painting series, Travels Pretty. Drawing from her upbringing on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, Red Star seeks to shed light on the complex and often misunderstood histories of Native Americans through a feminist Indigenous lens. To do so, she reinterprets the patterns and colors of parfleches, vibrantly painted rawhide bags made by female members of nomadic tribes in the North American Great Plains, in the designs of Travels Pretty. As a means of celebrating the women who crafted parfleches and were never credited for their craftsmanship, all twelve of the paintings are named after women from the 1885 Crow Census. 

Traditionally, parfleches served as a vital component of cultural and self-expression within the Native art community. In addition, these bags were typically employed for the purpose of transporting food and personal possessions. Red Star draws a direct parallel to modern society’s usage of mass transportation for traveling through the artwork’s location in bus shelters. While crafting Travels Pretty, to ensure the accuracy of her work, Red Star conducted extensive research on parfleches in archives at the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, the Field Museum, and the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. Included in each work are handwritten texts containing phrases referencing different aspects of Apsáalooke history. Travels Pretty is presented by the Public Art Fund and will be up for viewing until November 20, 2022.