Some of our favorite features on OsiyoTV include stories about talented Cherokee artists. We have almost an embarrassment of riches from which to choose when it comes to Cherokee art.
Growing up in Oklahoma, in spite of being surrounded by dozens of tribes, I found that wasn’t always the case. For many years, so-called “Indian art” in the larger world was limited to southwestern art—desert scenes, howling wolves, Pueblo-inspired pottery or Navajo rugs. They were Native, yes, but still from far away and unfamiliar places. If it wasn’t southwestern, the themes tended to run to Plains tribes and included tepees and elaborate feathered headdresses worn by those tribes. It always felt like something was missing.
My first exposure to Cherokee art came through my aunt, a talented Cherokee lady who was always creating something. She made sure I found outlets for my own artistic urges and introduced me to southeastern Native art through the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee. There, the art of Jerome Tiger, Woody Crumbo, David Williams, Acee Blue Eagle and Cecil Dick graced the walls. It was eye-opening, to be sure.
Many of these artists had come from the Bacone art movement, a flat style incorporating bold colors, movement and little to no background. They drew inspiration from their traditions and respective tribes while trying to navigate a way to commercial success. Suddenly there were depictions of our southeastern lifeways and people who reflected Cherokees and other tribes who call this place home now. In the years since the ‘70s, that movement has multiplied.
Today we are blessed with the blossoming of Cherokee art and the rich southeastern culture reflected in it. As you’ve probably noticed in a lot of our OsiyoTV artist features, most will tell you that they have been inspired and even guided by others in their journey to create art. Anna Mitchell’s revival of pottery resulted in her mentoring dozens of Cherokee potters. Cecil Dick’s work informs us on early Cherokee traditions in medicine, ceremony and storytelling. The Sequoyah Weavers and Oak Hill Indian Weaver Association of the 1940s gave us a legacy of Cherokee weavers.
We believe it’s important to share this background with our viewers. It’s a true pleasure to bring you stories of our Cherokee National Treasures such as Lorene Drywater, Noel Grayson, Eddie Morrison and Dorothy Ice. And when you see art from Roy Boney Jr., Daniel Horsechief or Keli Gonzales, you can be assured they have researched the traditions of our ancestors. Motifs that have been long obscured now flourish within our art forms in an astounding array of media from wood-fired pottery to digital renderings.
The stories of our people have historically been kept through visual and oral retellings. I think our ancestors would be amazed — and hopefully very pleased — by the sheer volume of our creative Cherokee lexicon today, including telling our stories through the medium of television. It’s why we have such high standards here at OsiyoTV. Our ancestors are watching.