May 24, 2016

Artist Kay WalkingStick to the Class of '16 at Pratt: "Take some risks. Become resilient. Treasure curiosity and affection."

Kay WalkingStick, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and one of the most celebrated artists of Native American ancestry in the world, graciously shares the commencement address she gave last week to graduates of the Pratt Institute in New York. WalkingStick earned her Master's of Fine Art from Pratt in 1975. 

Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist, the first major retrospective of her artistic career, is on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., through September 18, 2016.

Kay WalkingStick
Kay WalkingStick in her studio. Easton, Pennsylvania, 2014. Photo by Julia Verderosa

Thank you. It’s an honor to be here speaking to you all. It is great to be back at Pratt.

I have a young friend named Yael Tsorin from Arcadia University, from whence came my undergraduate degree. She is now attending Pratt in the Master's program in Art Therapy and was my studio assistant a few years ago. I’ve had many former students from Cornell come to Pratt for grad school, but this young woman from Arcadia, my alma matter, particularly pleases me. It feels like the circle is complete.

WalkingStick 1974
Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), A Sensual Suggestion, 1974. Acrylic on canvas, 42 x 48 in. Collection of the artist. Photo by Lee Stalsworth, Fine Art through Photography, LLC

It has been a very long time since I attended Pratt. Forty-one years to be exact. The art world has changed enormously over those years. In 1975 the rage was conceptual art, performance art was still big, and Joseph Kosuth was hot. Nobody gave a damn about French philosophers, and deconstruction had to do with demolishing buildings.

I came here to quickly be a better painter and to be able to teach at the college level. I mean to learn and teach painting—as in putting paint on a prepared canvas and believing that people could convey deep and meaningful ideas that way. My painting did improve. I learned how to think about paintings, conceptualize paintings, and how to talk about art. I spent a lot of time in the New York galleries, uptown and in Soho.—None of them were in Chelsea then.—And I was a woman in a seemingly men’s-only art world. But that was changing, or so I hoped!

Walkingstick 1981
Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), Montauk II (Dusk), 1983. Acrylic, wax, and ink on canvas, 56 x 56 x 4.25 in. Collection of the artist. Photo by Lee Stalsworth, Fine Art through Photography, LLC

There was no such thing as a digital world—no web, no cell phones, no iPhones. How did we ever get through the day?

The only computers were huge and klunky. “Algorithms” was a word used only by mathematicians.

Nevertheless, It was a pretty cool world—groovy, we might have said.

So what has remained the same? Anything?

Well, I still believe that paintings—colored mud and oil on a gessoed surface—can carry profound meaning. I believe that people can share ideas through visual means and that we who make visual art in all of its many manifestations are the carriers of our human visual history. We are the inheritors of Lascaux and Hovenweep.

I have high hopes that you all still believe these things, too, although I suspect many of you are not making paintings at all, since painting died some years ago I am told, killed by Arthur Danto and his philosophical buddies. You are no doubt finding other methods to make art in this digital age.

So it goes.

My Cornell colleague Carl Sagan (I actually never met the fellow) said that “science is not so much a body of knowledge as a way of thinking,” and that could be said of art as well. We learn how to think about a visual problem and all of the myriad ways to solve it—deconstruct it, if you will—then proceed to do so. We need the skills—the craft—and the various approaches we could take to accomplish that. All of this we learned at Pratt, and a lot more besides. Education is, after all, about intellectually enriching our lives and finding interesting ways to lead the rest of our lives. And it’s the rest of your life I really want to talk about.

WalkingStick 1991
Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), Night/ƠRT (Usvi), 1991. Oil, acrylic, wax, and copper on canvas, 36.25 x 72.25 x 2 in. Montclair Art Museum, purchased with funds provided by Alberta Stout 2000.10

With a little luck you folks will probably live for another 70 or so years. Enjoy them, for God's sake! Don’t bore yourself to death with a dull job or a dull partner. Take some risks—I don’t mean speeding at 90 or doing heavy drugs—but take risks to find an interesting, challenging, perhaps difficult profession. Don’t let money be the primary goal, but rather let your goal be interesting, enlivening activity. (Oh, money is important, but not more than the avoidance of boredom.) Take risks to find an interesting life partner—someone who can talk about your profession, whether that is art or not, with curiosity and affection. Take plenty of time with both roles. They last a lifetime, so treasure them.

WalkingStick 2001
Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), Gioioso, Variation II, 2001. Oil and gold leaf on wood panel, 32 x 64 in. Courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis

I found that people had to be good at rejection to exist in the New York art world. Learn to take a hit now and then and brush it off. You’ll meet some very interesting people along the way who can say the darnedest things. Somehow my being part Indian with a funny name brought out a lot of remarks. For instance, Ivan Karp, a prominent art dealer in Soho who was always friendly to artists and a witty man, said when he met me, “You’re an Indian? I always thought you were a Jewish girl from Queens who had changed her name!”

Apparently, it’s always a surprise to people that there are Indians in New York.

Another dealer—a not very nice one—told me to take all of the paintings I had shown him, put them in a pile, and put a match to them. Make a painting bonfire.

And the best, I think, was another who, when she heard my name, immediately started laughing uncontrollably.

She may have been stoned.

So learn to take occasional rejection and keep on working. It’s the work that will preserve and inspire you. And eventually I did find a great and gracious dealer named June Kelly whom I have been with for over 20 years.

WalkingStick 2011
Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), New Mexico Desert, 2011. Oil on wood panel, 40 x 80 x 2 in. Purchased through a special gift from the Louise Ann Williams Endowment, 2013. National Museum of the American Indian 26/9250

By the way, all those paintings that I did not set on fire are now hanging in the Smithsonian at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Revenge is sweet. Very sweet.

I have not had a boring life, and in fact I’ve had a hell of a run with a lot of fun along the way—a couple of rough spots, too. I’ve taken a lot of risks—usually, not always, thought-out ones. (I did wear a helmet on that motorcycle.)

So challenge yourself, and enjoy every single day.

You are ready for it.

—Kay WalkingStick
Commencement, Pratt Institute
Brooklyn, New York, May 17, 2016


Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935) received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1959 and completed her Master of Fine Arts in 1975 at Pratt Institute, supported by a Danforth Foundation Graduate Fellowship for Women. WalkingStick’s work is represented in the collections of several museums, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is a professor emeritus at Cornell University.

Photographs © the artist. All rights reserved.

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March 10, 2016

Highlighting the women artists in “Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains”

Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains” opens this Saturday, March 12, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. Alongside historic masterworks, the exhibition showcases 50 new pieces by contemporary Native artists. Sixteen contemporary artists are represented, three of whom are women. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are taking a closer look at one work by each of these women that will be featured in the exhibition. 

Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux) is skilled at both bead- and quillwork. After learning how to bead simple belts at the young age of 10, she now enjoys creating beautiful pieces based upon abstract and realistic designs focused on nature, mythology, and daily life.

Growing Thunder Fogarty created Doll with Honor Dress in collaboration with her brother, Darryl Growing Thunder. Darryl drew the horses while Juanita made the doll and completed the bead- and quillwork. Darryl is also a featured artist in the exhibition. 

Juanita_Growing_Thunder_Fogarty 26-7725

Above: Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty. Right: Doll with Honor Dress, 2009. Made by Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux, b. 1969) and Darryl Growing Thunder (Assiniboine/Sioux, b. 1967). Hide, muslin, porcupine quills, beads, ribbon, brass thimbles, brass spots, paint, horsehair. NMAI 26/7725

 

Vanessa Jennings (Kiowa/Pima) has been quoted as saying, “I don't like the title 'artist.' I look at myself and see myself as just a traditional woman.” She is well known as a regalia maker, clothing designer, cradleboard maker, and bead artist. These skills bring her recognition as a keeper of Kiowa culture.

According to Jennings, in her culture it is not proper for men to brag about war deeds, so the women dress up to tell the stories and honor the men. Jennings created this battle dress in a style similar to those worn by women related to members of the Ton-Kon-Ga, or the Kiowa Black Leggings Society.

Vanessa_Jennings

26-5646_detailAbove: Vanessa Jennnings. Right: Kiowa battle dress (detail), ca. 2000. Made by Vanessa Jennings (Kiowa/Pima, b. 1952). Rainbow selvage red and blue wool; hide; imitation elk teeth (bone); brass sequins; brass bells; military patches; ribbons; thread; dyed tooling leather; German silver conchos, spots, and buckle. NMAI 26/5646

 

Lauren Good Day Giago (Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree) is recognized for the passion she brings to revitalizing her people’s cultural arts and merging them with new methods during her creation process. She began with creating beadwork and tribal regalia and has since moved to quillwork, ledger drawings, parfleche, and fashion.

Plains narrative art is known historically as a predominantly male art form focused on hunting and battles. Giago’s ledger art, however, depicts women, children, families, and courtship. In this particular piece, she shows the day she and her husband, who is Oglala Lakota, ceremonially adopted a relative’s daughter.

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Above: Lauren Good Day Giago. Right: Making of Relatives, 2012. Lauren Good Day Giago (Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree, b. 1987). Antique ledger paper, colored pencil, graphite, ink, felt-tipped marker. NMAI 26/9023

 


These three women are demonstrating their people’s culture through amazing artworks. Join the conversation throughout Women’s History Month by telling us on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page about amazing indigenous women in your life and what makes them so special using the hashtag #WomenAre.

—Shanice Jarmon, NMAI


Shanice Jarmon is a social media specialist in the National Museum of the American Indian’s Office of Public Affairs.

Portraits courtesy of the artists; object photos by Ernest Amoroso, NMAI.

Unbound: Plains Narrative Art will be on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York from March 12 to December 4, 2016.

Curated by Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota), with historic works from the museum's collections by 14 artists. The 11 who are known by name are Long Soldier (Lakota/Nakota), Mountain Chief (Blackfeet), Bear’s Heart (Southern Cheyenne), Zo-tom (Kiowa), Black Chicken (Yanktonai), Canté-wani′ća/No Heart (Yanktonai), Chief Washakie (Shoshone), Spotted Tail (Crow), Old Buffalo (Lakota/Nakota), Rain in ihe Face (Lakota), and Ćehu′pa/Jaw (Hunkpapa Lakota).

Works commissioned by the museum for Unbound are by Dr. Ronald Burgess (Comanche), Sherman Chaddlesone (Kiowa), David Dragonfly (Pikuni), Lauren Good Day Giago (Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree), Darryl Growing Thunder (Assiniboine/Sioux), Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux),Terrance Guardipee (Blackfeet), Vanessa Jennings (Kiowa/Pima), Dallin Maybee (Arapaho), Chester Medicine Crow (Apsáalooke [Crow]), Chris Pappan (Kaw Nation/Osage/Cheyenne River Sioux), Joe Pulliam (Lakota), Martin E. Red Bear (Oglala Lakota), Norman Frank Sheridan (Southern Cheyenne/Arapaho), Dwayne Wilcox (Oglala/Lakota), Jim Yellowhawk (Cheyenne River Lakota).

Generous support for the project is provided by Ameriprise Financial. 

#UnboundNarratives

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March 09, 2016

"Unbound" opening in New York March 12: Artists in the gallery will talk about their work

Saturday, March 12, five contemporary artists will be on hand at the National Museum of the American Indian's Heye Center in New York for the opening of Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains

In celebration of Women's History Month, the museum presents Crossing Lines: Women and Ledger Art. Traditionally ledger art is most frequently associated with men, but many women are outstanding artists in the Plains narrative style. Meet three women who use the art form to tell their own unique stories. Starting around 11 a.m., Unbound artists Lauren Good Day Giago (Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree) and Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux) will be available in the exhibition gallery to talk about their work. In the Heye Center's Great Hall, up-and-coming ledger artist Wakeah Jhane (Comanche/Blackfeet/Kiowa) will demonstrate ledger drawing.


Emil Her Many Horses and Lauren Good Day GiagoCurator Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota) and artist Lauren Good Day Giago, preparing Lauren's piece Honoring Grandpa Blue Bird to go on exhibit in Unbound. Lauren created the painted dress to honor her grandfather's military service.


The women artists will be joined in the gallery by two fellow Unbound artists—Dallin Maybee (Northern Arapaho/Seneca) and Chris Pappan (Kaw/Osage/Cheyenne River Lakota).

Brief biographies  of Lauren Good Day Giago, Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty, Dallin Maybee, Chris Pappan, and the other contemporary artists whose works will be on view in Unbound are available in the exhibition's online media kit. To read more about Wakeah Jhane, visit her website.


Unbound: Plains Narrative Art will be on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York from March 12 to December 4, 2016.

Unbound  is curated by Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota), with historic works from the museum's collections by 14 artists. The 11 who are known by name are Long Soldier (Lakota/Nakota), Mountain Chief (Blackfeet), Bear’s Heart (Southern Cheyenne), Zo-tom (Kiowa), Black Chicken (Yanktonai), Canté-wani′ća/No Heart (Yanktonai), Chief Washakie (Shoshone), Spotted Tail (Crow), Old Buffalo (Lakota/Nakota), Rain in the Face (Lakota), and Ćehu′pa/Jaw (Hunkpapa Lakota).

Works commissioned by the museum for Unbound are by Dr. Ronald Burgess (Comanche), Sherman Chaddlesone (Kiowa), David Dragonfly (Pikuni), Lauren Good Day Giago (Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree), Darryl Growing Thunder (Assiniboine/Sioux), Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux),Terrance Guardipee (Blackfeet), Vanessa Jennings (Kiowa/Pima), Dallin Maybee (Arapaho), Chester Medicine Crow (Apsáalooke [Crow]), Chris Pappan (Kaw Nation/Osage/Cheyenne River Sioux), Joe Pulliam (Lakota), Martin E. Red Bear (Oglala Lakota), Norman Frank Sheridan (Southern Cheyenne/Arapaho), Dwayne Wilcox (Oglala/Lakota), Jim Yellowhawk (Cheyenne River Lakota).

Generous support for the project is provided by Ameriprise Financial. 

#UnboundNarratives

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September 28, 2015

Always Becoming: Nora Naranjo-Morse's Vision of Change and Renewal

Since the summer of 2007, Always Becoming—a group of clay sculptures artist Nora Naranjo-Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo) describes as a family—has graced the landscape of the National Museum of the American Indian. Nora's work, selected unanimously by the museum from proposals offered by Native artists from throughout the Western Hemisphere, has become a popular, and unusually humble, Washington landmark. 

From the beginning, Nora embraced the idea that the environment would collaborate in shaping her sculptures, although she and members of her non-metaphorical family have returned to the museum each year to provide stewardship for the work. Between now and October 1, they are here to see Always Becoming into a new phase. "The proposed second phase allows us not only to revisit the original concept of Always Becoming," she says, "but to understand and articulate the knowledge of change and renewal." 

The museum will update Nora's photo diary whenever she takes a break to talk about the work. —NMAI


Day 1—A new generation of people is working on Always Becoming, phase 2. Benito Steen was 16 when he worked on the original project. He is now 26. Eliza, my daughter, and her partner John Cross are also on the team, and they bring their important skill sets. It's exciting to be back and to be looking and working on Always Becoming again, it's like coming back to family. —Nora Naranjo–Morse 

Always Becoming day 1-1

Day 2—Forming foundations, collecting materials, connecting community. —NNM

Always Becoming day 2-1

Always Becoming day 2-2

Always Becoming day 2-3Day 3—The cool air and encouragement of passersby made today an easy and inspiring work day. NNM

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Day 6—Part of the Always Becoming team went on a collecting trip to gather poles from a 100-year-old tobacco barn 50 miles south of the museum. Glenn Burlack, a museum staff person, generously offered his time and efforts to help us locate and collect 15 poles to use in the sculpture known as Taa. 
 
While part of the team traveled to cull poles, other Always Becoming team members stayed on site building the new sculptures. Our work, all of it, is labor intensive, but truly satisfying.

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Day 7—Benito's blueprints and collections of clay.

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Days 10 & 11—Moving to the tee pee form known as Taa, John and Benito worked shaving and charring the inner ring of posts. 

Eliza, Emily, and I worked on adding more clay balls and refining the lines in the mud forms.

Always Becoming 10-11-1 Always Becoming 10-11-3 Always Becoming 10-11-4Always Becoming 10-11-2



Always Becoming 10-11-5 Always Becoming 10-11-6 Always Becoming 10-11-7 Always Becoming 10-11-8 Always Becoming 10-11-9

 


Photos by Nora Naranjo-Morse and her family
and colleagues on the Always Becoming project team. 

 

 

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