Sunday, October 6, 2019

Five Native American Artists You Should Know

Just as music plays a vital role in Native American culture, art has a very special place as well. Native American art has developed over centuries, tracing back to cave paintings, stonework and earthenware. Art has been used as a form of expression in the Native American way of life for thousands of years. Most art was created as a symbol, such as a bird, animal or people. Many art objects are basically intended to perform a service -- for example, to act as a container or to provide a means of worship. The materials to make this artwork varied from clay, stone, feathers and fabric. Typically linked to a deep connection with spirituality and Mother Earth, Native American art comes in many different styles and forms to reflect the unique cultures of diverse tribes -- including beadwork, jewelry, weaving, basketry, pottery, carvings, drums, flutes, pipes, dolls and more. Here are five contemporary Native American artists you should know:

1. Wendy Red Star: Of Apsáalooke (Crow) affiliation, Portland-based artist Red Star (born 1981) works in a variety of media. Her art often includes clichéd representations of Native Americans, colonialism, the environment, and her own family. Her humorous approach and use of Native American images from traditional media draw the viewer into her work, while also confronting romanticized representations. She juxtaposes popular depictions of Native Americans with authentic cultural and gender identities. Her work has been described as "funny, brash, and surreal." Red Star produced artwork for the 2019 Art+Feminism Call to Action Art Commission (shown above). "Ashkaamne (matrilineal inheritance)" depicts in black and white the artist and her daughter, Beatrice Red Star Fletcher, reclining in matching striped shirts and blankets, with the words, "Apsáalooke feminist," repeated in the background. Apsáalooke inheritance is based on matrilineal descent, tracing affiliation along the mother-to-daughter line. This image represents a lineage, female empowerment, and the next generation.

2. Frank Buffalo Hyde: Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1974, Hyde was raised on his mother's Onondaga reservation and studied at the Santa Fe Art Institute and Institute of American Indian Arts. He belongs to the Onondaga Nation, Beaver Clan, and Nez Perce tribe. Before becoming a visual artist, he played in a rock band and dabbled in writing. Hyde juxtaposes 21st century pop culture images with symbols and themes from his Native American heritage. His vibrant, satirical, graphic paintings seek to dismantle stereotypes of Native American culture and replicate what he refers to as "the collective unconsciousness of the 21st century."

3. Makita Wilbur: Wilbur (born 1984), a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip peoples of coastal Washington, for the past five years has been traveling and photographing Indian Country in pursuit of one goal: To Change the Way We See Native America. Wilbur began her career in fashion and commercial work in Los Angeles after completing the prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography. Though in high demand professionally, Wilbur realized that she wanted a different path as a photographer: to create portrait art that deeply communicated people's lives and experiences.

4. Teri Greeves: Greeves (born 1970), who grew up on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, is known primarily for her use of traditional Kiowa beading, which she learned from her Kiowa grandmother. Greeves merges her cultural history with both traditional and contemporary clothing items as a commentary on being a Native woman in the modern world. She blends traditional geometric traditional Kiowa styles with figurative elements of the Shoshone, while also commenting on the derivation of American modernist abstraction from traditional Native American designs.

5. Harvey Pratt: Considered one of the leading forensic artists in the United States, Pratt (born 1941) has spent over 50 years in law enforcement, completing thousands of witness description drawings and hundreds of soft tissue reconstructions. Pratt is a Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal member and is recognized as an accomplished master Native American Indian artist. He is a self taught, multi-talented artist involved in many media; oil, acrylic, watercolor, metal, clay and wood. He has won numerous awards and was named the Red Earth 2005 Honored One. Just recently, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian announced that Pratt's Warriors' Circle of Honor was the winning design for the National Native American Veterans Memorial.

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