Holly Wilson (Delaware Nation/Cherokee) is a contemporary multi-media artist. She uses the figure as a vehicle to lure the viewer into her stories. Story by story we learn more about the artist, about ourselves, about the ties that bind and the threads that weave together stories to reveal a larger cultural narrative and identity. She tells stories that are sacred and precious, personal and universal, powerful and at times volatile.
The exhibition features new and recent multi-media works in sculpture, installation, and photography.
The accompanying catalog includes essays by Jennifer C. Vigil and heather ahtone and illustrates all the works in the exhibition.
“A View From Within Under The Skin” and 7 Photographs
21c Museum Hotels Oklahoma City 900 W Main St, Oklahoma City, OK 73106
August 2017 – Febuary 12, 2018
The way we see others and how one is seen has been a subject that I have had in my life since I was small. I am both Native American and Caucasian, but growing up I felt more times than I care to count that I was not enough of one or the other and that pull made me question all parts of myself. If I did not look like _____ could I be ______? Where did I fit if I was not a part of this or that group? I have had conversations with many that are from other races and that too was a struggle as well. Is my skin too dark or not dark enough, the texture of my hair or the accent that I speak with. All of this history, this past came to a head one day while getting my children ready for school we were pulling together pencils, folders, colored pencils, and crayons. They had to have 4 sets of 24 crayons each and we had leftovers from sets of the past years, some colors had never been used, and we were combining them together so we’d know how many new boxes would be required. The kids were talking about their friends at the new school and friends of their past school. In the conversation, they were describing the children “the girl with the yellow hair, the boy with the brown skin”, in a very casual descriptive manner with no malice to the differences. This made me think more about how we see people and how one is judged. The smell of the crayons, the vivid colors, and the thoughts of my youth brought me to this crayon project. How we change in our viewpoints of people, and how we judge people based on race and color. We are all one below that surface, that surface of skin, no matter the color, the shape, or the origin.
There are 12 girls and each girl is made in all the 24 colors in a Crayola Crayon box making a total 288 girls. I think if we could see ourselves as all the colors in the crayon box in all the shades we would be kinder we would be able to feel if just for a moment another’s life and our world could change in such a way that kids don’t worry about if they are too light or too dark or if their hair is the right texture to belong.
It is the stories of family, history, and identity that brought me to “Bloodline”. It is a long trail of my Native American history, my bloodline. To be ‘on the Rolls’ as an American Indian you must prove a quantum of blood verified through birth and death records until you match up to a name on the official “Dawes Rolls.” As I began walking through the past to document my blood, with the names and some faces, I wanted to hear them speak and tell their story. I wanted them to be counted.
The figures walk across a Locust tree base that came down in a storm. It is cut lengthwise exposing the rough center revealing the lines that show its life and history. I de-barked the exterior but kept the curve of the tree and its raw surface. You see the figures walking through time—their life above and the tree’s life below.
The Cigar Figures come from a childhood Native American story that my mother told of the “Stick People.” The “Stick People” would run through the night and call your name; if you went with them, you were never heard from again. She never described the figures and I was always drawn to the idea of what they looked like. The Cigar Figures are my reimagining of that story, now a story of family and my past—a complicated narrative of loss, survival, and resilience. The figures are made from real cigars and found sticks cast in bronze. The faces are the ancestors from my past as far back as I can trace.
There are sections for each generation, beginning with my children. Though I only have two, there are five figures. Each life is counted and the children who did not survive are remembered with a place on the wood in history; their forms small and their heads bowed. Next, I have my section with my sisters and brother followed by my mother’s and father’s history weaving back and forth. When hung, the light casts a shadow of the figures on the wall. This shadow represents memory for me. Like a shadow, these memories cannot be held, and in the end, we are all only a shadow in history, shadows on this earth.
Bronze, Patina and Locust Wood
29″ x 22′ x 9″, 2015