I paint with fabric and draw with thread. A storyteller, who made an unusual entrance into this craft. My children’s participation in a traditional Native American ceremony required me to make blankets as a part of their spiritual offering, and the process was very spiritual for me. Because it was the only way I could contribute as a non-native woman, I poured everything I had into those offerings. Being a creative person, I didn’t make traditional block quilts. My blankets pictorialIy depicted the Native American names gifted to my children when they were born. After a decade of creating blankets for private spiritual ceremonies, I transitioned to creating portraits for gallery display in 2018.
My initial body of work was a series of portraits depicting each of my 9 children, my husband, and myself. Through the images and the artist statements for each portrait, I opened the door into our personal lives. I was vulnerable and I was honest. In the process of creating this collection, I realized how much my husband’s life's work has impacted the way I see the world and the way I see myself. He is an educator, culture-bearer, spiritual leader and activist for the Ojibwe Tribal Community. Being exposed to his work was like turning on a light bulb, or my “third eye” being opened. All of my textile portraits depict what I now see. As the only white person in my Native American family, my work is about my reflections as an outsider and the emotional rollercoaster I often ride as I stand fixed on the outside of the cultural and spiritual experiences of my husband and children, but privileged enough to look in. It’s not simply about the pieces of Ojibwe culture I’ve been allowed to see, but instead what it’s allowed me to see within myself, and even to recognize what cannot be found there. It is not my intention to teach people about Ojibwe culture, but instead to use it as a mirror for analysis and self reflection of modern day mainstream American cultural norms and ideals, and how those values are communicated.
Another collection I created addressing cultural norms engaged with contemporary issues regarding the female body. “Mother” discusses societal messaging about aging as a woman in today’s society. We don't see the transitions of a woman’s body as sacred, and we haven’t rewritten the narrative to assert that aging is beautiful. But what if we did? “I’ve Made Peace ….with my Body” though nude, it's not a fetishization or erotic portrayal. She occupies the space completely in a pose typically reserved for the male form, and is accompanied by a bird, nature...the natural. We realize self acceptance is a delicate thing needing to be nurtured. And “Daughter” is an expression of a mother’s fears of the future of my daughters body given the prevalence of sexual violence experienced by native women.
My current body of work is an ongoing series, which I have been working on for nearly 2 years titled, “Becoming”: The Transition from Childhood to Womanhood, celebrating my 12 year old daughter’s journey and ceremonial right of passage into womanhood. Important revelations in this series involve but are not limited to the following themes: Our relationships to the natural world and the relevance of imagination. Cultural views, attitudes, and communication regarding the physical transitions of the female body, definitions of womanhood, and ultimately the teachings we share with our daughters about what it means to have a female body, and how to protect it in today’s society. My portraits explore intimate parts of my life and center on the juxtaposition between my white culture and my husband’s traditional indigenous culture, and continue to express a range of challenging topics concerning today’s society, with spirituality deeply woven into their narratives. My work is vulnerable, honest and personal, but has the power to make universal connections. Even when my work is dark, it’s filled with hope.