Arts Writing Artist Features

Radical Indigenous artist Natalie Ball is unapologetically moving forward — as mother and artist.

Jeanine Jablonski

Radical Indigenous artist Natalie Ball is unapologetically moving forward — as mother and artist.


When I first came across images of Natalie Ball’s work, I was floored. Who was this amazing indigenous artist living in Oregon, and why had I not seen her work before? I was mad at myself for not having been aware of it earlier. Ball’s work immediately brought to mind the early sculptures of indigenous Canadian artist Brian Jungen, his assemblages of Nike footwear and human hair, ca. 1999. Ball’s works are full of heart, they’re unwavering and fierce. In Ball’s sculptures, I also see a mixture of equal parts Louise Bourgeois and Ree Morton—I feel the mother in the work. I connected with Natalie to talk about artmaking, motherhood, and the seduction of the abject.

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This interview was conducted in 2019, and appeared in FIGURING, a publication of The Ford Family Foundation. The annual arts journal (shifting title as it progresses) is part of the program element CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS, led by the University of Oregon with partners Portland State University, The Cooley Gallery, Reed College; and PNCA at Willamette University.

The inaugural publication is dedicated to notions of “figuring,” that is, the processing of a moment to inform a position from which to act, the presentation of a form, or expression of a body. By holding space for both indeterminacy and latent form, Figuring conjures histories and possible futures, lived experiences, and propositions for ways that ethereal matter might exist concretely or be allowed to endure as defined by its own logic.