First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 58

PROFILE above End of the Day, 2015, watercolor on Arches paper, 12 × 16 in., private collection. opposite General Store, 2017, watercolor on Arches paper, 18 × 24 in., collection of the artist, currently touring with Visual Voices: Contemporary Chickasaw Art. people’s tribes, because that’s not who I am. I’m not going to paint what’s popular, because that’s not what I do. I’m not going to get political, because that’s not who I am. What I do is through my dreams or my ancestors, our homeland. That’s where all my paintings come from. The true artists are the ones that are going to paint things they’re familiar with: the landscape, personal life. Artists are sensitive of surroundings. We’re sensi- tive—we have a strong knowledge of right and wrong, of good and bad—we’re surrounded by good and surrounded by bad. It’s what we paint.… It’s what we were brought up with and that’s what I paint. Not necessarily my childhood but my mother’s. I do a lot of Choctaws in the field picking cotton or picking blackber- ries and stuff that kept them from being hungry, to let them survive. You said you had a tough time growing up in Stigler. You dropped out of school in the ninth grade because you were bullied. It was rough only when I went to town. I do some paintings when kids are window-shopping. That’s something we always liked to do as kids, because we didn’t have much money in those days. Growing up, there weren’t very many Indians around here, and what little there were, they didn’t want to be Indian. I don’t fault them, but I’m glad that I never was like that. I never was ashamed of being an Indian. I never was ashamed of being dark-skinned—never was. I never did want to be them, because I knew I wasn’t them. One time I did a painting of a little girl looking in the mirror with the mother combing her hair—and she was proud 56 | WWW.FIRSTAMERICANARTMAGAZINE.COM of her—and that little girl was looking at herself and she was proud. It was inter- pretive of my first day of school. I was looking at myself in the painting and had a little smile, and remembered as my mom was braiding my hair. She said, “Always remember who you are.” I didn’t understand what she meant then, but my mother was always conscious of racists around here. She was telling me, look in the mirror. Don’t try to be white, because you’re not. You’re Indian. You be proud. Why did you leave school? Why did I leave? Because I was about the only Indian there—me and my brothers and sisters. There’s this one time I felt like Dolly Parton with her “Coat of Many Colors,” because of all the shenanigans, stupid stuff going around. I said, Okay, I’ll show