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Indigenous Artist to Artist (Part 1): Adapting To Pandemic & Daring to Dream


MATIKA WILBUR: Hi, I'm Matika Wilbur, co-host of all my relations with Dr. Keene.

ADRIENNE KEENE: Adrienne here. Thanks for tuning in. Big wado to all of you. We love you so much. And this is only possible because you're here. So thank you for subscribing, sharing and tuning in.

MATIKA: Absolutely. We're so honored to be back here with you again. And today and for the next few episodes, we are dedicating space to some of our artsy indigenous relatives. We have all been so dramatically impacted by COVID-19 our world has changed in ways that many of us would have never dreamed possible. This pandemic swept across the planet and left none of us untouched. And we are all doing our best to try to figure out how to navigate this challenging time.

ADRIENNE: It's true, every area of our lives has been impacted by the pandemic and all the stay at home orders. And we've spent so much time worried about our relatives, some of whom have been more impacted than others. But we've definitely been worried. And for those, worried for those that are sick and suffering, for those that are out of work, for those that are mourning losses of loved ones and for those who aren't safe at home, I've also been really worried about our kiddos and those trying to navigate online school and those in higher ed. And we want to extend our love and solidarity to all of you and we really want to help.

MATIKA: Our team keeps asking itself, what is the best way to be useful to our relatives? What does it mean to be a good relative right now? Of course, there is the upfront work we can all do, the social distancing, the mask wearing, the hand washing and sanitizing till our hands are cracking.

ADRIENNE: And we also can be good relatives to the social uprisings happening nationally, we can support the Black Lives Matter movement, we can be active citizens and vote, we can donate when possible, and we can send racial justice in our lives.

MATIKA: Absolutely. And since we are storytellers over here at all my relations, we feel as though we have a responsibility to tell empowering stories from the heart of Native America. And since we all know that Native America’s always underrepresented, we think moving forward that it's a really good idea to dedicate space to those being dramatically affected by COVID-19.

ADRIENNE: Right. And right now, in the third week of August, we'd all be gearing up for art market, which is short for Santa Fe Indian Art Market, or SWAIA. And it's this little tradition of ours. We rent a casita, we get hashtag Santa Fancy with our homegirl Jessica from Beyond Buckskin, and we go and take in the joy of some of the finest jewelry and fashion and visual art that Native America has to offer. And it's really fun.

MATIKA: Super fun. Of course, we aren't there right now as everything is canceled, which is alarming because according to SWAIA’s website, it attracts over a hundred and fifteen thousand visitors from all over the world to buy art directly from a thousand artists, from over 200 tribes in the U.S. and Canada.

ADRIENNE: It's this huge market that spans 17 city blocks in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico, and AT SWAIA, the money from sales goes right into the artist's hands. According to SWAIA’s website, in 2018, an economic impact study showed the direct and indirect spending during Indian market totaled 165 million dollars for northern New Mexico. And SWAIA provides enormous economic opportunities. Many artists make a third to half of their yearly income at the event.

MATIKA: And on this topic of economy, according to a study published by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, quote, Throughout most Native American communities, racial economic inequality is a consistent characteristic. Based on the 2013 to 2017 study, the median income of Native households was forty thousand three hundred and fifteen, which pales in comparison to the white household median income of sixty six thousand nine hundred and forty three.

ADRIENNE: The numbers are staggering and there's also the fact that philanthropic dollars aren't matching the population. For example, according to the First Nations Development Institute, quote, the share of total foundation dollars awarded to Native organizations and causes average only six tenths of one percent, so point six percent of foundation giving. First Nations also found that in most years, the majority of grant dollars supposedly aimed at supporting Native communities and causes are not awarded to Native controlled nonprofit organizations. Looking at giving from 2007 to 2014, Native controlled organizations received only about 48 percent. And since Native Americans make up two percent of the population, it would make sense that philanthropic dollars should match that.

MATIKA: Dang point six percent. That's wild.

ADRIENNE: So, although SWAIA is responding and taking the market online, which we’ll definitely share links to, we thought it might be a good idea to check in with our artist friends and see how they're doing. So today you'll hear parts of our zoom conversation with Waddie Crazyhorse, J. Nicole Hatfield and Pat Pruitt.

ADRIENNE: Pat is a talented Laguna Pueblo and Apache metalsmith who likes to push boundaries and expand the definition of what is considered Native art. He came to fine art jewelry through the world of body piercing and learning to make his own jewelry there. And he now uses materials like titanium and complex contemporary processes to produce creative modern jewelry that reflects his cultural roots. Right now, he's working on these incredible titanium feather earrings that are colored brightly using some fancy sublimation process or something. But they look like something a futuristic Native warrior woman would wear, and I absolutely love them. So he starts by telling us how covid has deeply impacted the Indian art community.

PAT PRUITT: Everything started happening in the March timeframe, right? So we had the Heard show that those of us that were able to to participate in that, we had that. But you could sense something was coming, right? I mean, the attendance wasn't as high. And, man, shortly after that is when the ish just hit the fan. Right. Like states are closing down. Like for for those of us here in the Pueblos, like the pueblos shut down really early. I mean, and fast. Yeah, just like straight up. No visitors. And then and then you really started hearing the reaction by organizations. Right. SWAIA then put out the notice that, like, we're going to postpone Indian Market. There are a number of other shows that I do outside of the Native art market. Those shows are being canceled. I potentially had a museum opening like a solo exhibition slated for this year from the Heard museum that gets postponed. So like all this all this postponement, like, really happen rapidly right at the very beginning, which I will say I'm very grateful that that happened then because you can now plan right, we’re no longer, we're not reacting to what's happening. And I think that's what's really made a transition, in a sense, a little more thoughtful and a little more purposeful, because essentially I think all of us in the Native art field, we were, I would argue, to say we were 100 percent or I say 100 a very high percentage, like 80 to 90 percent reliant on shows for revenue generation. And as you go into March and April and realize your entire year is gone, like there's zero opportunity, I think everybody really just dug deep and really started to think, OK, how am I going to get through this? You know, especially for those of us who are full time artists. I mean, I've been full time for well over 20 years. It's it's [] now. So so I think I think with any with any culture that's been resilient for centuries. Right, your Native population has really taken, taking the bull by the horns and really developing either innovative ways to to change their revenue dynamic or just using what they already have, which is, I think, the case for most of us through social media these days. Right. I mean, being able to push stuff out to get the word out, to say, hey, look, this is what I have available. And I think more importantly, there has been a lot of empathy in the sense that people within within the Native art community and I think even a much broader sense, those that collect art or are fans of makers, that they realize it's like if something is coming out right now, the only way to acquire it is online. Right. There's no shows. So so I think you're seeing the dynamic, the buying dynamic change a little bit more. Yeah.

ADRIENNE: I really appreciate what Pat said here, and I think the challenge is going to be who will come out on top in this big shift and dynamic that he and we all are seeing. There are younger artists who have a lot of experience and access to the Internet and social media, but there’s also rural artists or elders who have limited access to the Internet or folks who only make a few pieces a year or to sell at the bigger markets. And it's really interesting to think about and see who is going to benefit from this shift. But I also recognize that there's a lot of power in putting the sales back into the hands of artists directly because markets are really beneficial for artists, because you get that like person to person exchange, et cetera, but they're also largely controlled by non-Native boards and directors and artists have to even like compete for entry into these the largest of the shows.

MATIKA: Mm hmm, yeah, it costs like 500 dollars, and when I did SWAIA, I remember like going through an application process and crossing my fingers, hoping I was going to get in. And then there was like this sort of feeling like, oh, my God, is my work going to be considered fine art enough for them to actually select me? And then there's like these juried shows. And you also sort of feel like if I don't win, if I don't get a ribbon, if I don't place is my work good enough? It's a very it's a very uncomfortable situation.

ADRIENNE: Yeah. And like, who makes the criteria for these types of things, like the criteria for SWAIA in particular is so antiquated and like really specific about what gets counted in a traditional category versus a contemporary category based on the type of materials you use or like the shape of different things. And it really skews towards what interests a non-Native buyer or gallery or museum. So like this moment could really present an opportunity for artists to sell directly to clients that like a client base that is more diverse and really have folks be able to access work who might not have been able to before, which is powerful, like in a lot of ways. So I actually did some research with Kristen Dorsey, who is a Chickasaw metalsmith that we're going to have on a future episode in the series on her experience of being a Native artist at one of the larger art markets. So I went as an ethnographer. I sat at her booth for an entire day and shadowed her as she interacted with all the guests and the clients and it was so wild to see it from that perspective. And I learned a lot. So I wrote up the experience for Catapult magazine. It's also probably at some point going to end up as an academic article. But the Catapult piece, I did want to read a little bit to you mostly like I want folks to get a feel for like what it is like one of these markets if you have never been to one. And I'll preface this by saying that, like, I really enjoy going to these markets like it's not all bad, but it is really interesting when you start to step back and look at it through the lens of a kind of research perspective. So here we go.

MATIKA: Mm hmm. Oh goody I'm so glad you're going to read Adrienne. I love Adrienne story time. []

ADRIENNE: And I'll link to the full piece in the description of the episode so you can read it if you want. Though it's early on a Saturday morning, the line outside the art market snakes down the block. As I get in line, I can't help but notice the patrons, a sea of white elderly faces in large hats and sensible shoes, clutching programs and coffee as they fan themselves under the desert sun. I am the youngest one here by at least 30 years and likely one of the only Native people in line. I attended this market for the last five years as a guest, but this early morning, quote members only line provides a different view, a window into who these markets are really for and as a result, who controls the world of Native art? Once inside, I head for Kristen’s Booth. Kristen Dorsey is a young Chickasaw metalsmith who has been making Southeastern inspired jewelry for about ten years since she was in college. She runs her own business, Kristen Dorsey Designs, based in Los Angeles. I've been a fan friend and collector of her work since 2012, when I first encountered her work featured on Beyond Buckskin, a blog about Native fashion. The large tent is packed tightly, with artists setting up their folding tables. At her booth, Kristen is arranging necklaces. She's an enrolled citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, which is based in Oklahoma after forced removal from the Southeast. But like me, she grew up in Southern California. She has dark blond hair, blue eyes and a slender, muscular build from her second love - surfing. Because of her outward appearance and home in Los Angeles, Kristen's journey through the world of Native arts has been constantly met with skepticism, questions about her identity and marginalization from both non-Native and Native gatekeepers in the art world. She gets bombarded with questions about her identity. Kristen tells me, quote, Every single time I go in front of the public, every single time I'm at a jewelry show or at an art show, every single time I introduce myself to non Natives, even to certain Natives, especially working in the Southwest art shows. I get so much flak. When I tell her about the homogenous white masses outside. She shakes her head, smiling. I've heard folks call them safari people, you know, khaki shorts, a vest, floppy hat, and they circle slowly. We make it a game to spot them. The safari people are in no short supply this morning and we begin to notice the quote, varieties among them. Quote, You can always tell the pottery collectors , says Kristen, they don't wear any jewelry. Then there are the ones who are almost wearing a costume over their safari outfit, the most turquoise and silver you've ever seen. Those are the Southwest jewelry collectors. They don't usually come by my booth. I watch the Southwest Jewelry Safari people walk by wearing silver Concho belts, bolo ties with stones the size of a fist and huge necklaces that almost look like they're pulling down the fragile necks of their elderly wearers. She's right. They nod and keep walking or don't even glance over. Kristen's work doesn't fit the stereotypes of Native jewelry, which tend to be built off Navajo, Pueblo and other Southwestern aesthetics such as silver work that features turquoise or stone and shell inlays Navajo squash blossom necklaces with their characteristic horseshoe shaped center designs or designs featuring stamp work where small images are hammered into silver using metal stamps. For most non Natives, if they think of Indian jewelry, they aren't thinking of beadwork, they aren't thinking of Kristen's work. They're thinking of this type of design. Kristen instead relies on her Chickasaw culture, her knowledge built through an undergraduate degree in Native American studies and a BFA. Each of her pieces is deeply researched, tells a story and is grounded in some aspect of her people. People really want jewelry to fit into a box and Native people into a box in the safe stereotypes space, says Kristen. I have fun because I defy every single stereotype anyone has ever held about a Native jeweler or Native art or Native people. And so I enjoy just breaking those stereotypes, just completely smashing them. But her stereotype breaking means that this art world created by non-Native outsiders, sometimes doesn't understand her work. Kristen gets rejected from shows quite often and feels it's because they, quote, don't think it's Native enough because they don't understand what it is end quote. They don't understand her techniques and the skill and time involved in creating each piece for someone trying to make her living with her work to stay grounded in the techniques and esthetics of her own community. The cycle is frustrating for Kristen. When I ask her what the biggest challenge in marketing her work is, she answers with a laugh - turquoise. We don't have to wait long for the questions to start. It's nine, 13 a.m., just 13 minutes after the gates have opened and a woman walks up to the booth. Are you from Oklahoma, she asks, but directs your question to Brittany, Kristen's booth assistant and friend, who is Navajo and looks more Native American, whatever that may mean. Brittany looks confused and just points to Kristen. She's the artist. The woman then turns to Kristen with the same question. Kristen shakes her head. No, I'm from Los Angeles, actually. Oh, you're from L.A. The woman looks skeptical. I braced myself, wondering what the woman will say next. But it turns out she's Chickasaw, too, and has been looking for fellow tribal members at the market. Kristen launches into what is clearly a well practiced reply. She notes where her family in Oklahoma are, their family name and where they live. She points out the way Chickasaw culture is woven into her pieces. She mentions she interned at the cultural center in Oklahoma and that they sell her work there. The woman seems satisfied with her reply, smiles, make small talk and ends with. You've done very well. Very nice to have met you. She points to a program. I marked all the Chickasaws in here and wanted to come see. Kristen laughs I don't think there are very many of us here. The woman carries on with a small wave. By 10 a.m. there's a steady stream of folks stopping by to peruse and shop. The questions continue about Kristen's work and appearance, and I'm constantly impressed with the way she takes it in stride. Kristen takes the time to educate with each interaction, telling the stories behind the pieces and the reasoning for the design decisions, adding value to the pieces as she helps customers decide. At one point, a tall white man approaches the table. He looks at Kristen's banner down at her work and then at her. You don't look Chippewa, he says matter of factly. This is not the first time Kristen has heard something like this. The boldness with which customers approach her identity astounds me, and I begin to realize how deeply these stereotypes of Native people run. Kristen gives a slight laugh and shoots back, that's because I'm Chickasaw. We come in all colors, shapes and sizes. He nods and after a few minutes of browsing, actually buys a bracelet. Later, another man makes a comment about her light colored eyes and asks, Are you a speck of Indian? And now I'm going to skip forward to a part about an interaction with a booth next door to Kristen's. There are so many tensions in this place, in this art world and in Kristen's lived experiences. This market and all those like it were created to cater to a non-Native audience at its heart, it's a transactional space where Native artists are selling their art to consumers. This is the part of the market that brings out much of my discomfort. I can't stop thinking about the interaction at a booth next to Kristen's, the booth of a female Pueblo potter, a middle aged white man and his elderly father purchased a gorgeous pot, one I had been gazing at all day, I couldn't hear the beginnings of their interaction. But after he handed her the check and she put out her hand for a handshake, he scoffed. He gestured toward his father with a smirk for six thousand dollars, he said, I want my old man to get a hug. Many of these patrons are buying Native art as a way of owning a piece of, quote, authentic Native America. With that comes the uncomfortable knowledge that they feel they are owning a piece of the artist themselves in that transaction. Kristen and her work are living resistance to the non-Native standards of authenticity, the highly regulated space of the art market and the stereotypes that keep Native jewelry in narrow boxes. She is directly challenging the normalized logics of blood quantum and the accepted norms of Native art and Native artists. When I asked Kristen about the future of her business, her first answer isn't about increasing her output or hiring new employees. It's about her people. She says, I want to become a leader, an ambassador for my tribe, for our culture, and create other opportunities for other Southeastern artists where there aren't any opportunities or awareness. I hope the work I do will break down a few barriers for the next generation of Chickasaw artists. I just want to be a good ancestor.

ADRIENNE: I know, Kristen , I mean, it just was such a powerful experience to be with her and see how hard it is to be an artist in these spaces and like how much of herself she puts in every single piece, how much of her self she puts in the research behind the pieces and how difficult it is to have her identity questioned, to have her art questioned, and it's just this constant bombardment when all she wants to do is share about her people and the love of her culture and create these gorgeous pieces that people can buy and wear and celebrate with her. So I'm so grateful that she gave me the opportunity to do that. And let me write this piece that was more than a little critical of art worlds. And, yeah, it's it's a lot.

MATIKA: Mm hmm. Well, you know, I have a few things that come to mind, Adrienne. I first I want to say thanks for publishing that and for being brave enough to say things. You know, I we need journalism from within our own community. We need people to write about our experiences from our perspective. And I think this is a really good example of what like what powerful messages can come out of us writing about our own experiences, you know, because I feel as though a very different article might surface with a non-Native writer talking about that, the same very same scene. And I also, you know, like I grew up my mom had a Native art gallery when I was growing up called Legends. And I was a real shopgirl, you know, like every day after school, I would walk into town and I would stop by like two or three different little stores and they'd have snacks for me. And I would rollerblade around town to all these little stores. And my mom's space in town was the only Native art gallery. And I grew up sort of fielding these questions that you talk about at the art market, but just on a regular basis. And it kind of armed me at a young age with with language for ways to talk to non-indigenous people about indigenous people. But it also, I think, created for me like this sense of like exotification of my own self. You know, I don't know how to really describe it, except that at times I felt like a like a peacock in a zoo or, you know, like maybe the lion at the zoo, but that people were coming to view me, so to speak, and-

ADRIENNE: Like they were on a safari

MATIKA: And that's why I think one of the reasons why I like that. Yeah, like they were on a safari and and that's how I felt the art market. And I went one time and never once again. And I couldn't I could not handle the interactions, you know, because I had a whole different set of problems, you know? So it's like even if you present, like I do, you know, like you're brown and you have long hair and you photograph people who are Native people, you know, I would often hear people say things like, I really like this photo, but do you think that you could recolor it so that it would match my couch better, you know, or like, do you have any photos where all of the people are looking away from the camera? Because I don't really want it to feel like I have a portrait of somebody that I don't know in my living room. And I mean, there was a number of very strange recommendations. And, you know, I would tell people that I was from Swinomish and Tulalip and they would say, is that a pueblo? And and then I would have I would, you know, like be I would like, you know, but like now that's in the Pacific Northwest. Oh, well, do you do formline. No, I don't I don't do formline you know, like I'm a photographer, you know. And so I think each person from wherever they come from in that space is probably having a similar experience, even if it's not related to colorism. And I think this identity politics that we are constantly navigating is what we're all navigating the art world and trying to belong in some way, you know, and, you know, like, I feel fortunate that I was able to reject that, you know, like like Pat said, he first said 100 percent of artists, he thinks rely on that that income. And then he switched it to maybe 80 or 90 percent. But the truth is, is that we know that this is one of the only major economies for indigenous artists. And so I feel uncomfortable like talking about how terrible it is, because the last thing we want is for people to come and stop buying artwork because we need our artists to make money. But if we're in the middle of a social uprising and we're reimagining a future, can we also reimagine an art market or an art world where indigenous artists don't feel like-

ADRIENNE: I mean there is the alterNative market of seeds, which is indigenous run and popped up because of a lot of these tensions. And it happens at the same time as SWAIA in the railyard of Santa Fe. So I think there are people who are trying to reimagine what it means to have an indigenous centered market space. But as Pat said, we're in this moment where the Internet is now becoming that. And so there's a really big moment of opportunity, of reimagining what those interactions and who your patrons and who your clients even are.

MATIKA: I can't help but think about the non-Native listener who's listening to this at home and thinking to themselves, OK, so should I go to art market and can I buy Native artwork? You know, because I get that question all the time and I just kind of want to go back to that and touch on that a bit.

ADRIENNE: Yeah. I mean, folks are creating art for people to buy it and love it and enjoy it like it's not. I think it's such an interesting question that non Natives have such a hard time distinguishing between cultural appropriation and like actually supporting Native artists, which to me is so obvious that of course, rather than buying the fake knockoff thing, buy it from the artist, support the artist, learn the story behind the piece. Learn where it comes from. Learn about the artists themselves and their passion and the the work that they pour into it. So, of course, keep going to market. Of course, keep going to the websites of these artists and supporting them and in the current moment where we're having a chance to reimagine, it might mean that these art markets look very different in the future or that folks go into them with a different awareness in the future. Folks who are looking to buy the art. So I think this is not to discourage non Natives from buying Native art. It's the contrary. We want people to understand the heart and the work and the challenges that go into being an artist so they can appreciate the work that much more.

MATIKA: Amidst this big shift in the art world, Nicole Hatfield just made the transition to full time artist and is learning to navigate these differences and adjust her work in real time. Nicole paints beautiful, bold, colorful portraits of indigenous people. And, you know, Nicole's a little mic shy. And as she says, I don't really like to talk about my work. I let the bold colors speak for themselves. But when you encounter her work, you definitely feel something. It's as though reparations is happening in each piece of work. At times I've heard Nicole talk about how historical paintings often named the man in the portrait and the woman would be named wife or something without title. And Nicole's work is an act of reclamation. It makes you feel proud to be an indigenous woman.

NICOLE HATFIELD: Yeah, I, I say, I, I say I've been a full time artist since back in 2014, but I had also a full time job, a stable job, and I recently resigned from there and I had been there about, I want to say about six years and oh not too long ago probably like I think May, April or May, I resigned. I decided to just, you know, pursue strictly art and it's I'm not going to lie. It's kind of scary. You know, I'm so used to having that stable income, you know, and that that's always there. And and now it's different because now I've got to fully depend on, you know, selling my art and stuff, you know, and I never know how it's going to be each month because it varies. You know, it goes up and down every month. And I'm managing I've had to adjust my content, you know, as as far as the size and stuff I'm having, I've started doing smaller pieces. It takes a little takes me a little bit longer to create the smaller pieces. And I don't know why that is. It's crazy. Like if I like this big piece right here, like, I can bust one of those out in, you know, less than a week and but the smaller pieces, it just takes me a lot longer. But like I said it, since the shutdown happened, it's been up and down each month. It just varies.

MATIKA: Listening to Nicole say that she's transitioned full time to being an artist makes my heart swell. I visited with her back in Oklahoma in 2018 and I profiled her on my blog and in video. And I want to play that for you so you can get a feeling for the heart behind her work.

NICOLE: I am. Working on a series called um Indigenous Goddess, I wanted to honor women and I wanted to do a lot of women of today and that inspire me. And so I am working on the series and she's one of them. You know, we need more women artists. Growing up, you know, I didn't know any growing up. I had all I need was men, women, artists. And I was I was kind of scared to even start painting because I thought it was just a male thing to do and it wasn't a women weren't supposed to do, that's what I thought when I was little. When I started painting, I was about 15 and I had just started high school. And at the time I was kind of going through some things and, um, and I attempted suicide. So painting was like a healing thing for me. And so all through high school, any time that I could go in there, I would I'd be in there at lunch time painting, I would I would lie to my other teachers to just to go in there. And, you know, to go paint.

NICOLE: I feel like there's no right and right and wrong way to to make art. You know, just do whatever feels good and just don't give up. Just keep going with it.

ADRIENNE: It's so moving to hear Nicole talk about how Art really saved her and the healing power of creating art because art is powerful and Waddie Crazyhorse, talk to us about the power that can happen in an exchange of his art and how realizing that power allowed him to put more of himself and more love into each piece, he creates thinking about the person who will ultimately wear it, enjoy it and love it. I met Waddie a number of years ago in undergrad at Stanford, and he recently has moved back to his pueblo after a decade of worldwide adventuring and living in California. And since COVID, he decided to return home and set up shop. He's a third generation metalsmith and you can see the legacy in his pieces. His heavy silver pendants with turquoise or beautiful silver bracelets celebrate the techniques passed down to him by his grandfather.

WADDIE CRAZYHORSE: Purchasing jewelry is a very it's a very personal decision, and that's why it's hard to list things online as just a flat, you know, digital photo. There's no conversation between the piece and the person, the potential buyer. There's a lot there's a lot at play because I feel like the metal contains my energy. There's a piece that I made called The Ripple Pendant, and it emulates casting a stone in a pond. And the deeper meaning behind that is that, you know, every action, every smile, every word that you speak carries with it some sort of volume, and it's going to leave an impact in some way or another. Something as simple as wearing a mask in these times has a very positive ripple effect. A prospective buyer two or three years ago, that sort of changed the game for me, the way I approach jewelry making, the way I approach my my life's work and she came up to the booth and she was so excited. She said, oh, my God, I get to finally purchase a piece of your energy. And that made me step back and give pause real quick. I said, Interesting, like, you are so in tune you don't even see this art as just, you know, sculpted metal. It's it's a piece of my energy. It's a piece of my focus its my hours of of effort and expertise go into this. And for her to really flip the script on me, that changed the way I approach making jewelry. I really try to make it with more love now with like the with the most care and pride, because that is my result. That's like one of my children. I don't have kids. Instead, I have like this empire of work that I want to be proud of. I'm lucky to do what I do to stay productive in these, you know, kind of paused timelines, and I'm really hopeful that whatever I make inspires somebody in some way or another.

MATIKA: I appreciate Waddie helping us think through the experience of art, I've had that exact experience with his jewelry a few years ago, I bought one of Waddieʻs necklaces at Art Market, actually, and when I put it on, I just knew I had to have it. And, you know, the truth is, I feel really good about wearing it. I wear it all the time. It's one of my favorite pieces. It helps me to feel connected to Waddie , but also to what it represents, the interconnectedness that it reinforces. Art has a way of doing that.

ADRIENNE: Yeah. And Pat speaks to this as well.

PAT: We're all we're all very blessed to have a gift, right, and I think those of us have been pursuing that gift. My gift, I realized I'm really good with my hands and metal. That's my gift. You know, I can create and I can put that creation out into the world. And it's appreciated by most. What that's allowed me to do is to really go out and expand my relationships and my true relations with other artists, with friends, with families, with complete strangers, because they found that one thing, that one thing of beauty, regardless of what it means to me, that's what it means to them. A lot of what we create empowers people. Right, it makes them feel beautiful. It makes them feel loved, and that's that's so amazing, I mean, to have that gift. To make someone feel so special that that little piece of metal, whatever it is, embodies and transcends where they were previously. It's magical in that sense. And so when we started talking about our relationships with everyone and how we encompass and fold, the nice thing is that initially you kind of start off as the customer client relationship. But that relationship then grows and expands. And pretty soon you're having a beer, you're sitting on the sofa. It develops into a friendship. And to me, that's I can't ask for anything more. Right. Like like you say because like I can go anywhere in the country and have a sofa to sleep on. I can go a multitude of places in the world and have the same thing and it just grows and builds upon that. So what it enables me to do, like how I how I can use that to benefit and bring to my community. I don't have kids. Right. And so I decided very early on that it's like, well, just because I don't have kids doesn't mean I can't help children out. And so for me, because my net has been cast very large, I can use that to now look at things on how can I bring those resources home, because we are remote, right. And how can I use that to benefit kids? Fundraising is an amazing thing to do, right? If you're sending kids off to some trip or buy books or whatever. And for me, that's one of the ways I choose to give back because our creator blessed us all with the gift. And for me, being able to understand and it took me a long time to accept that this was my gift. To use it, and in my opinion for good.

ADRIENNE: To bring us full circle, that is what we want to do at all my relations is use this space to do some good. And there's a large portion of Indian country who are working artists. I don't know if there are any actual statistics, but it really feels like our population has a lot bigger number of folks whose day to day life is creating art than other communities are in large part is dependent on relationships, relationships between artists and medium artist and community artists and culture artist and client artist and museum relationships that thrive on person to person interaction, on building networks, and on creating and keeping in community. Matika is a working artist, and I'm lucky enough to have so many friends who are artists and designers, the goal of this series of episodes is twofold. So in a world of cultural appropriation and Native inspired crap showing up on Instagram ads and in stores, we wanted you to get to know actual indigenous artists, folks who have been in the game for a long time, navigating the complicated and careful lines of culture, tradition, innovation and art. We want you to hear their voices and their stories, know their work and their passion, and learn why it's so important to support Native artists directly. Secondly, the pandemic has hit us all in different and difficult ways. But when the Native art world is so dependent on in-person relationships, this time has meant that things have had to dramatically shift and change in a very short period of time. Many of our artist friends rely heavily on art markets and shows for the majority of their income each year, and all of those have been canceled. So we wanted to use this opportunity to bring those two pieces together and introduce you to some of our artist friends, as well as check in and hear about how their work and lives are moving forward in this new and challenging time.


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