As a kid, I was captivated by Native Americans. I read about them and studied them. At age 14, I read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”. The book broke my young heart for the people impacted by the devastating events. But nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced six years ago when I visited Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Poverty, hurt, despair, hopelessness were everywhere. The brokenness I was personally dealing with connected with the brokenness of the place and the people. And yet in the middle of all this hurt and despair, I found a beauty and a sliver of hope that has been my inspiration.
When I returned home from that trip, I picked up a pen and a piece of watercolor paper and sat down and drew a Golden Eagle. I had not drawn in 20 years. But something amazing happened. The drawing someone captured my heart for the Lakota people. The Golden eagle is seen as the creature that “sees from above”. The Lakota believe this bird of prey watches over what they do and whenever he shows up they know that he is encouraging them. The eagle gives them hope and comfort. After the initial drawing of the eagle, I felt so inspired and other drawings and paintings began to emerge. I later added driftwood sculptures and woodcarvings, as well as photography to the mix of medias that I enjoy.
“In the middle of all this hurt and despair, I found a beauty and a sliver of hope that has been my inspiration.”
I am focusing my art work as a way to advocate for the beauty of the Lakota culture. I am deeply inspired by the prairie, the Black Hills and the Lakota people. My art features wildlife and Lakota symbols and people. I go to great lengths to research the subjects of the painting and the symbols and stories that are integrated into the piece of art. Wildlife subject include the buffalo, wolf, Golden eagle, and the bear. I also feature smaller animals, birds, and insects as the Lakota see all of these creatures as “wakan” or sacred. They are not worshiped but are seen as messengers. The Lakota share a connection with all of creation while still maintaining a single Creator of all things. I admire this greatly and hope that my artwork reflects this connection.
I am focusing on sculpture, painting (watercolor and acrylic), photography (landscape, portraits and documentary style) and illustrating children’s books. The latest advocacy project is a children’s book called, “Keep Hope Alive“. The story is inspired by a Native American story. It has 32 full color illustrations. The goal of the book is to bring hope, where hope matters most. A portion of the proceeds of the book will be donated to teen suicide prevention on the reservation. Actual books will also be donated to children and organizations on the reservations.