First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 55

NORMA HOWARD above Choctaw Removal, 2017, watercolor on Arches paper, 18 × 24 in., collection of the artist. All images courtesy of the artist, unless otherwise noted. opposite Norma Howard in her home studio. Image courtesy of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. lot of old baskets. I collect baskets. One time I was painting baskets using basket- weave strokes, and then I thought, This looks good, and I went further. I’m self- taught. We never had art in our school. I live in a small town. So I never knew that terminology, pointillism. I know now. But that’s not what I do. I call it basket-weave stroke, double-weave strokes with layers. I use up to five layers. I discovered this on my own—using tiny, diamondback strokes that come out of ancient art. All of our clothing, our baskets, everything relates to diamond- back rattlesnakes. We admire their personality, so to speak. They mind their business same as we do, Choctaw, but if you mess with us, we’re going to strike you and that’s what we admire. We’re like that. A lot of us are. We mind our business, but don’t mess with us because you know what you’ll get. So we use a lot of that diamond- back on our dresses, basket weaves. You started with watercolors because that’s what they had at the five-and-dime store in Stigler? Basket-weave stroke goes in layers to give it that rich ground. On every ground I usually use five layers. Had I just used a large brush and put the five layers, it would look muddy. Why it doesn’t look muddy, it’s those strokes I use. The first layer, like when you’re building your home, it’s the bones of the home. The first layer is like a good ball weave. My son, he’s a stickball player and weaves the balls for stickball games. And on those balls you can’t tell where the weave ends or begins. You can’t tell where I end or begin my strokes; it’s a double weave. It’s a technique I learned on my own. It’s the only thing I know. If someone wants to mimic my art, well good luck, because it’s not easy. Yeah, you know those little palettes? I’d start with that and paint on mat boards. Your father’s image shows up in a lot of your paintings. There’s one with people sitting around a fire with a kettle. It’s family, togetherness, quietness. Having a fire and a pot going. A time when my mother was speaking Choctaw. It’s that comforting place. This other one, The Ice Cream Parlor, the man there was my dad. This is my memory. And at the end of the day, that might be why I’m an artist. Growing up I was quiet and observant of actions and nature. I remember my dad would always WINTER 2018/19 | 53