Q&A spotlights UW–Madison alumna who is the Met’s inaugural curator of Native American art

The Wisconsin Alumni Association published a Q&A with School of Education alumna Patricia Marroquin Norby, the first full-time curator of Native American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Patricia Marroquin Norby
Norby (Photo: Scott Rosenthal)

Norby earned her master of fine arts degree from the School of Education’s Art Department in 2002. In the interview, she identifies a range of influences that have inspired her interest in Native American and Indigenous art, including her family and connections with the Native American and Indigenous communities in Chicago and Madison — where she learned about beadwork, regalia-making, and other techniques.

“I’ve always been interested in how things are made — a sense of aesthetic curiosity,” says Norby. “That’s still very much part of my curatorial practice. I’m very drawn to materials and the actual process of making things.”

Norby also shares that the late Ho-Chunk artist and UW–Madison Professor Truman Lowe (MFA, 1973) played an important role in her development as an artist and as a curator. As a professor, Norby says, Lowe was encouraging but exacting: “He had really high standards.”

Norby’s current exhibition at the Met, “Water Memories,” features Lowe’s 1993 sculpture, “Feather Canoe.” It also highlights art from other UW–Madison associates, alumni, and professors, including Professor of Photography Tom Jones (BFA, 1988) and alumna Janice Rice (MA, 1975).

Norby tells the WAA: “With ‘Water Memories,’ I wanted to place Native American and Indigenous artworks in dialogue with non-Indigenous works and create a stream — a narrative of water. What really came forward were all the personal stories that were associated with the artworks. And so, the exhibition really draws out those personal connections with each of the items on view.”

“That’s one reason why we have the word ‘memories’ in the title,” Norby adds. “The narrative is framed around very intimate moments — memories that each artist or community had in connection to a work on view.”

To learn more, read the Q&A with Norby at uwalumni.com.

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