First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 57

NORMA HOWARD for it?” I’d never sold a painting before, and we just threw out a number, and then I said, “Twelve dollars, you think that’s high?” So my brother said, “Why don’t you go up a little more? Twelve-fifty?” And the man bought it. And I guarantee you, it lived with me forever—that feeling with your work you do, and someone appreciates it. That’s what we’re here for. I’ll never forget that time. You exhibited your work for the first time at Red Earth in 1995. How did that come about? I was out of work when the sewing factory I worked for moved to Mexico with NAFTA. And I felt like I was a loser because my sisters and brothers had jobs and I didn’t. And I thought, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I won’t say a dark place, but I was in a place where my future was uncertain. We went to Red Earth that year and my husband, David, behind my back, got a form for artists. He said, “You’re just as good as they are.” Fast-forward to that time when I was late sending in my 35-millimeter slides for the application. All I had was Walmart, and my slides didn’t get back in time. So I called this one lady at Red Earth and said, “I don’t have my slides in. Can you wait a little bit?” And she said, “Yeah, we’ll wait.” Then I got a letter that said “Congratulations, you’ve been selected.” And that’s when I went to Red Earth and won first place. After that you went on to Santa Fe Indian Market in 1997 and you won a SWAIA Fellowship the next year that you used to explore Choctaw history. You’ve won Best of Classification three times at Indian Market, as well as Best of Division and First Place ribbons in multiple art shows over the past two decades. Has your success influenced what you paint? I take art seriously. I don’t paint just to make money. If you want that kind of manufactured artist, that’s not me. You want an artist that paints what’s fashion- able now, that’s not me. I’m not that kind of artist. Mine is feelings. If there’s a death in the family, it’s a setback for me. I can’t paint. I don’t want that kind of negative energy in my painting. My paintings will outlive me. Sometime someone’s going to say this artist painted the way it was. If they can open their minds and heart to how we lived and how good we lived among each other and how we survived, I think I did my job. Lots of successful artists leave their home places, moving to big cities or big art markets like Santa Fe. But you’ve always stayed close to home in this small town, Stigler, Oklahoma. I love visiting Santa Fe. That’s one of my favorite places to go. But my heart is right here. My grandma, grandpa, brothers, mother, dad—they’re buried just a mile and a half behind my home. I’ve never lived more than three miles from where I was born. When I was little, I had that close commitment to my family. What I mean is my thoughts are always with art and with my family, and that’s where I put my art. I’m not going to paint other WINTER 2018/19 | 55