Native Artists You Should Know and Share

Merritt Johnson: a multidisciplinary artist who incorporates performance into her practice. She explores language, examining aphorisms and forcing us to think about what we say. “I work from my perspective as mixed, descending from Onkwehonwe (native people) and settlers, so I am exploring my experience and learning about where I come from as well.”

 Shonto Begay: a painter of lyrical, pointillistic work, to which he refers the strokes of paint as, “repeating like words of a Navajo prayer.” Begay states that he survived the brutal Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school, meant to assimilate native children and remove their cultural affiliations, by drawing on his cultural and spiritual strength. “Arts saves lives” is his mantra. He was born on Dineh land, known as the Navajo nation.

Molly Murphy Adams: learned beadwork at a very early age, as well as hide tanning, sewing and traditional clothing design. A mixed blood descendent of the Oglala, Lakota tribe, Murphy-Adams was raised in western Montana and earned a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from The University of Montana in 2004. “The liberties I take with materials, line quality, and design elements reflect my interest in contemporary art and the development of abstraction in the Western art tradition. My work reflects the issues of politics, cultural identity, and learning to live with the weight of the past.”

Lillian Pitt: a Pacific Northwest Native American artist, she was born and raised on the Warm Springs reservation in Oregon. “I was in my 30’s, and already an artist before I knew that my ancestors lived in the Columbia River Gorge for more than 10,000 years. I had no idea. That’s 8,000 years before the time of Christ, and 6,000 years before the time of the Great Pyramids at Giza! My family never spoke about it, because when I was growing up, it was better for our survival to try and cover up the fact that we were Indian.”

She has accumulated a lifetime of works in a variety of media including clay, bronze, wearable art, prints, glass, and jewelry. Her works are regularly exhibited throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as nationally and internationally.

Votan Hernriquez: a Los Angeles native who is of Mayan and Nahua roots He blends the knowledge of his ancestry, his experience of graphic design and art, and awareness of the issues facing native people to create artworks which include blending contemporary art techniques with old Mayan symbology.

Toma Villa:  Yakama Toma Villa’s portfolio includes murals, including those at Chief Joseph School in Portland and at Chief Kitsap Academy in Suquamish, Washington. Known for his graffiti art, he also has experience in printmaking, painting, airbrush, sculpture, and design. In addition, he works weaving cedar, making hats.

Wendy Red Star: working across disciplines, Red Star explores the intersections of Native American ideologies and colonialist structures, both historically and in contemporary society. Raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, Red Star’s work is informed both by her cultural heritage and her engagement with many forms of creative expression, including photography, sculpture, video, fiber arts, and performance.