Adornment is an important traditional exercise within the culture in which I was raised. I am an Osage Nation Citizen and was incredibly lucky to grow up participating in my traditional ceremonies and art practices. One of those practices is beadwork which we use to embellish our traditional clothing worn in ceremonies and for social occasions. My mother taught traditional techniques and fashion design at the Institute of American Indian Arts for 20 years so I had the great privilege of growing up around these techniques and concepts and many talented and inspirational textile artists. It's fun to have a question like, "Why Jewelry" because it causes me to pause and consider something which because of the great fortune of my heritage and family I often take for granted. Jewelry is life! Ha! Or at least an important part of life - a reflection of the beauty inherent in all things which we put on our bodies to remind us in conscious and subconscious ways that we are that beauty embodied.
What music/books/artists are inspiring you lately?
I've really been enjoying rereading the Silmarillion and the Lord Of the Rings trilogy. I am a lifelong bookworm and the first book that propelled me into that practice as a kid was the Fellowship of the Rings, so there's some really nerdy tendencies there. There is a new TV series out about that world, so it's been fun to try and unravel where those show creators are taking things based off of the books. Joseph Campbell is one of my favorite writers/scholars and he speaks extensively about the "Hero's Journey" and how that narrative is so prevalent in the human psyche, across cultures and history, which is what all those Tolkien books are talking about too. The concept that our lives are learning journeys and through adversity we transcend to new levels of thought and potential is such a foundational and important touchstone for me, it helps to center my perspective in this wild world. Music wise, to accompany the magic, mystical Fall I'm loving Irish folk music like the Chieftains as well as a band I've loved for a long time called Mediaeval Baebes. Ha! Like I said, some really nerdy tendencies here.
But also, I just ran across this incredible Dine artist, Hataalii, a powerful poet and musician whose work just feels like a singular experience - pure talent and inspiration. Visual art that I've been drawn to lately has been anything that is talking about color. As a painter I am really a colorist at heart. Even if there is some kind of "idea" or representative "subject matter" present I've come to terms that my work is first and foremost investigating color relativity and relationships and I think I'm very drawn to that conversation in the works of other visual artists as well. Luckily, there are many genius and inspiring artists from the past and present who are tracking the mysteries of color also and I love every one I run into. This is also an area where I think American Indian beadwork and artwork in general just excels beyond the average. The color relationships in many ribbon work and beadwork pieces are just so good sometimes that I feel dumbfounded and grateful in a real way just to be able to see it, just for it to exist in the world.
What is some of the best advice you were given as an artist?
The advice I most often go back to in my mind is something that many great artists have told me in different ways but was imparted to me very succinctly by my painting instructor Jesse Fisher at the Kansas City Art Institute. At the time she told me, I didn't really understand why she seemed to think it was so essential or important - probably because I didn't really know how I was intuitively putting it into practice and how to tap into that practice as a discipline because it takes a lot of submission which perhaps gets easier for me with age. The whole idea is that an artist, when not actively creating a piece, should study, constantly and as much as possible, the history of art and the works of other artists, the nature of light and color and perspective and how to convey a conceptual message. These things should be a disciplined focus along with the conscious study of seeing. Then, when you step up to the canvas or the blank page or the musical instrument or your beadwork or whatever it is you are making, the artist should, to the best of their ability, try to forget or divorce themselves from that 'thinking' and intellectual knowledge and simply allow themselves to be a conduit for the work to come through.
This results in a powerful dance with the work where you are arriving with an idea of what you're wanting to accomplish and then allowing that to integrate or sometimes even completely disappear into what the work wants to evolve into. It has been my experience in this practice that the knowledge is all there and we are more intelligent than we can imagine if we just get out of our own way. Our conscious mind is not all of us and I think art practices allow us to tap into the huge wealth of our greater, more holistic selves as well as some things that are outside of us but can come through us when we are lucky and, in my experience, humble.
If you could travel either back or forward in time for a day, what time would you visit and what would you do?
If I could move in time for a day I think I would have to investigate one of humanity's great mysteries, things like the creation and society of places like Cahokia or Machu Picchu - the building of the Pyramids of Giza or Gobekli Tepe or Newgrange. I am so fascinated by the sophistication and beauty of these ancient sites and peoples. I would want to go back and just see how folks were living then and also get some answers to how they did these amazing feats of artistry and engineering which we are unable to understand or replicate today.