Looking at the relationship between Native people and the land: Cherokee painter Kay WalkingStick reminds her viewers of a deeper story – United States of America

By Kathleen Ash-Milby And Bradley Pecore, American Indian, Fall 2015 VOL. 16 NO. 3 | To view more photos and read the full article, click here >>

Kay WalkingStick has always been enthralled with the beauty of the landscape. […]

“My paintings aren’t exact depictions of a place; they are based on the look and feel of a place,” she says. “Landscape paintings are depictions of nature re-organized by an artist. This is what landscape painters have always done.” This thoughtful, but sophisticated, approach to landscape painting has led WalkingStick to her standing today as both a celebrated Native artist and landscape painter.

The retrospective Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist, which opens this fall at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., will be a major milestone in this Cherokee artist’s career. It will provide a detailed visual history of her life’s work, from the early 1970s onward. […]

Though she had always taken her Cherokee identity for granted, during this time Native people were becoming more and more visible within the national media, leading her to use her art to more closely examine her relationship to a larger American Indian identity. […]

Whether they are meditative, pictographic or feminist, these ambiguous shapes provoke inquiry. Rich colors and bold hard-edged forms attract the viewer while the title ignites intrigue about the story of Sakajeweha, Chief Joseph, John Ridge and other key figures in American history. WalkingStick’s paintings were an overt attempt to come to terms with a history that was forgotten or ignored. […]

WalkingStick embraced the diptych format because it allowed her to combine her love of landscape traditions with her interest in addressing more complex and abstract ideas. The artist’s intention was not for the viewer to appreciate each panel separately but to read them together as one concept or as a multi-layered idea. She has at times explained this division as representing two kinds of memory, one momentary and specific, the other timeless and nonspecific, in order to create a deeper and more complete wholeness. […]

Kay Walkingstick - Photo By Michael Echols www.americanindianmagazine.org

Kay Walkingstick With Hudson Reflection, I, October 1972. Photo Courtesy Of The Artist, Photo By Michael Echols

Driven by her interest in universal themes, WalkingStick began to look more closely at the relationship between Native people and the land. Her consideration of terrestrial beauty and the sublime led her to investigate the deep connections and resonance of historical events in particular locations, seeking deep knowledge through careful contemplation. Her paintings began to combine landscape with the designs of the Native people who inhabited or are connected to those places. For the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon, for example, she used Nez Perce parfleche designs as inspiration. As artist Robert Houle (Saulteaux) has aptly stated, “her landscapes are a living synthesis of human presence and place.”

The painting Farewell to the Smokies (2007) demonstrates this synthesis between an intense sense of ancestral presence and place. Although WalkingStick was very familiar with the story of the 19th-century forced removal of the Cherokee people from their eastern homelands to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, she never thought it would be the subject of her art. Yet upon visiting the Great Smokey Mountains in North Carolina she found herself overtaken by the contrast between the intense beauty and lushness of the mountains with the tragic expulsion of her ancestors. […]

For most Americans the landscapes or the places we call home are often not recognized as Native places even though there is currently a large population of indigenous people within the United States. WalkingStick celebrates the natural beauty of the environment, as many American artists have, but also makes sure we do not forget that this land has a much deeper story, a history that is often hidden.

Kay WalkingStick’s love of the land and passion for painting has led to a rich and rewarding career. Now 80 years old, she continues to seek knowledge and understanding through her art. […]

Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo) is an associate curator at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, and co-curator, with David Penney, associate director for Museum Scholarship, of Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist. Bradley Pecore (Menominee/Stockbridge-Munsee/Mohican) is Curatorial Resident at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.

Source: Kay WalkingStick | NMAI Magazine Website
Address: http://www.americanindianmagazine.org/story/kay-walkingstick?page=show
Date Visited: Sat Oct 17 2015 12:33:41 GMT+0200 (CEST)

ON THE COVER: “If you’ve never beenin love, you won’t understand her icecream nudes; edible strawberry, coffee, blueberry bodies, inviting you to taste,”wrote a publicist about Kay WalkingStick’spastel silhouettes in 1969. The first everretrospective of her long, prolific careerKay WalkingStick: An American Artist,opens November 7 in the Third LevelGallery at the National Museum of theAmerican Indian in Washington, D.C. and runs through Sept. 18, 2016.

Detail from Kay WalkingStick. Me and MyNeon Box, 1971. Acrylic on canvas, 54″ x60″. Collection of the artist.

Source: Kay WalkingStick | NMAI Magazine Website
Address: http://www.americanindianmagazine.org/story/kay-walkingstick?page=show
Date Visited: Sat Oct 17 2015 12:54:39 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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Date Visited: Sat Oct 17 2015 12:55:56 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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