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Edmon Low Library

Oklahoma Native Artists Project

The Oklahoma Native Artists Project is a series of oral history interviews with Native artists, collectors, and gallery owners. The interviews are recorded in audio and video formats, and at the end of each oral history, specific examples of an artist’s work are discussed. The purpose of this project is to highlight the lives and careers of Native artists, to draw attention to the political aspects of making Native art, and to raise awareness of its cultural and economic importance. The first interviews, begun in 2010, included painters, potters, sculptors, photographers and conceptual artists over fifty years of age, most of whom had worked in the field since the 1960s. In 2012, the scope of the project was expanded to include the traditional fine arts and younger artists. Visit our new portal for Oklahoma Native Art.

Despite (aka Three Sisters) by Shan Goshorn, 2012

About the Collection

Native artists are among Oklahoma’s greatest treasures. There are more professional artists in our state, producing a greater diversity of work, than anywhere else in the country. Oklahoma’s Native artists possess a variety of backgrounds, with some who are self-taught and some who are graduates of college and university art programs. Still others have attended specialized art schools and art institutes, both Native and non-Native.

The Oklahoma Native Artists’ Project began in 2010 with oral histories of Native artists specializing in painting, pottery, sculpture, photography, and installation or concept art. Work focused on artists who reside in the state or have Oklahoma roots, and besides basic biographical information, topics covered included narrators’ memories of first making art, the development of their style and subject matter, and galleries and shows important to their careers.  If artists were actively producing at that time, they were frequently asked about the 1990 Indian Arts and Crafts Act.  At the end of each interview, artists discussed a few examples of their work on video.

Another goal of the project has been to gather information about the commercial Native art scene on the consumption side. To this end, interviews were conducted with select gallery owners and collectors.  Again, besides basic biographical information, questions were asked about the roles played by consumers in the growth of Native art markets and about Native art’s cultural and economic impact on the state.

As our collection expands to include bead artists, jewelers, basketmakers, and weavers, and as we continue to add collectors and gallery owners to the mix, we invite users of this site to keep checking back with us. Should you spot an artist or two whose work you would like to follow, you will find digital links to artists’ shows and special events, when available.  In addition, we are hosting an online gallery, featuring examples of artwork by our interviewees in various media.

Oklahoma Oral History Research Program
207 Edmon Low Library
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-7685

Interested in this project?
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