As an indigenous person, I often look to my own community and other native populations in the United States for some sort of sense of belonging and unity. I am searching for what brings us together beyond blood. This is where popular culture plays a clear role and where I often go looking. Yet when I see depiction of indigenous people on the news or in popular cinema, art and publications, I see stereotypes and negative depictions. I believe that simply being an indigenous artist is powerful, but I see a calling to be an artist and talk about the issue of native culture and identity. It seems unclear not only to outsiders, but those in my community as well, what should be most important to us as indigenous people. Honoring and knowing history, along maintaining traditions are ways to come together and reinforce a sense of belonging for a community that seems so small and often distant from one another.
My work involves looking at traditionally orally passed stories and legends and trying to depict the scenes from the stories in color digital photography. So often, indigenous people and photography are condensed into Edward Curtis’ work, which is often set up and misleading. I hope to show a different side of native culture by showing the importance of storytelling. The stories I am influenced by are the ones that my ancestors believed in and experienced. Before the Christians missionaries, I believe that they religiously lived by the stories I am able to find.
I treat the stories as if they are other worldly and prehistoric, which means that the project is becoming more abstract and limitless regarding the realistic depiction of the world. I start out shooting in the forest with party composed and partly by-chance set ups and always have Photoshop in mind for removing objects or combining elements of two images such as people or expressions. In the end, I like to treat my images similar to the boundlessness of paintings.