WYLD Gallery at the Canopy Complex spotlights Native American art

WYLD Gallery at the Canopy Complex spotlights Native American art

David Charette said being an artist “was like a disease” he couldn’t help.

It infected him at a young age, prompting him to scribble on worksheets at school—and then get in trouble for them.

This “illness” eventually earned Charette a spot at Austin’s WYLD gallery, which features strictly Native American art.

Ray Donley, 67, founded WYLD Gallery, located on Springdale Road, in late 2019. He had recently retired from his career as a lawyer and had a large collection of Native American art, which he began amassing in 1980s after a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Donley’s grandfather is half Chickasaw, but Donley doesn’t identify as Native American and says he’s “not the right person to talk about” Native culture. But through WYLD Gallery, he created a platform to help Native American artists of various tribes discuss their heritage and history.

These artists include Damian Charette, Joyce Nevaquaya Harris and Travis Mammedaty.

Damian Charette

At a small high school in Montana, a Sioux teacher saw no problem with Charette’s sketches. He saw the craft and helped foster it.

Charette ended up falling in love with printmaking and then painting, and he found that art helped him and explain to others what it meant to be Native—especially Crow.

The Crow is a Native American people mainly concentrated in Montana, where Charette grew up on a reservation. He described the Crow as a people who prided themselves on their language, chivalry, warrior lineage, and appearance.

“We still have a clan system and we live by our clan,” Charette said. “So you learn who you are and who’s in your clan and who your clan leaders are. And I think a lot of tribes don’t have that anymore … but it’s something very strong and something that we’ve grown into. For the rest of our lives, that’s who we are.”

More:These are the Statesman’s 10 favorite movies of 2022

Charette, 62, now lives in San Antonio with his girlfriend. He’s lived there about six years, and although he travels to Montana in the summer, he said he misses his home. He has found himself leaning into his girlfriend’s Mexican culture, finding similarities to his own heritage there.

“I’m sure a lot of people here in Texas have never heard of the Crow tribe before,” Charette said. “Texas doesn’t have many different native tribes here, or the number of Native Americans here is very limited. Say, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming – you see them every day and hear the language spoken every day. Here in San Antonio, no. You don’t hear it. You don’t see it.”

In his work, Charette explores aspects of Crow culture, such as the sweat lodge, which he says is their church, and the peyote ceremony, which is for healing. It delves into the meaning, feel and image of those spaces and events, and some pieces touch on the intersection of opposing elements.

“One really famous piece I did was called ‘Caddy Indian,’ and it was my grandmother’s 1963 Cadillac parked in front of the tipi with my uncle getting ready to go to the rodeo,” Charette said. “And you can see his boots as he’s sleeping in the front seat of the Cadillac — you can see his boots in the window.”

Although Charette is a full-time artist, the Parkinson’s disease he was diagnosed with last spring affects some aspects of his work. The diagnosis was recent, although he said he has been dealing with the effects of the disease for about seven years. These effects include problems with memory and motor skills, leading him to accidentally daub a canvas with paint and look hesitantly at the sharp tools used to cut wood – a printmaking technique.

He said he’s trying to create and photograph as much art as he can now. There are many other parts of Crow culture that he wants to put into art, and despite his developing Parkinson’s, Charette is determined to make it happen.

“Being an artist, it’s up to me to find a new way to express myself,” Charette said. “And I will find a way. I mean, if I paint with my feet, then that’s what I’m doing. Maybe I switch to another medium that is easier to control. I’ve always found a way to overcome my obstacles and art has always been there for me, so I don’t see any problem.”

Joyce Nevaquaya Harris

When Nevaquaya Harris was a child, her father would sit her down and tell her stories about their Comanche culture, stories of horses and hummingbirds that instilled a sense of pride. Those stories found their way into the artwork created by Nevaquaya Harris—her artistic talent serving as another part of her identity that her father passed down to her.

“I am a self-taught artist. I never had any lessons,” Nevaquaya Harris said. “Just being around my dad, I would go and just watch him draw or paint, and so I believe that was something that was a gift that I inherited from him.”

Nevaquaya Harris’ older brothers were also artists, and she looked to them for guidance on what materials to buy. She ended up using acrylic paint, first with regular paint brushes and then experimenting with non-traditional tools like a palette knife.

Just last year, the Oklahoma artist created an acrylic on canvas piece titled “Peace of Mind.” The painting depicted her sitting alone with a blanket wrapped around her, the wind blowing her hair and a hummingbird swimming nearby. The U.S. Department of the Interior Museum in Washington, DC, purchased the painting, and Nevaquaya Harris thought the painting would be placed there. But she went somewhere even more special.

More:‘It’s so beautiful’: Austin Powwow celebrates heritage, Native American history

“Maybe a few months later, they emailed me and said the painting they bought was inside the secretary of the interior’s office,” Nevaquaya Harris. “And so I was like, ‘What?’ I was really excited. … I couldn’t believe it, because I’ve been in my career for probably seven years professionally. I guess you could say professionally, but that’s who I am and … it’s just a natural thing that happened to me.”

Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, is America’s first domestic cabinet secretary.

Now 58, Nevaquaya Harris continues to use artwork to express her identity, which includes not only her enrollment in the Comanche Nation, but also her Choctaw, Chickasaw and Crow ancestry.

“(My dad) would always instill that, you know, to be proud of who we are and where we come from,” Nevaquaya Harris said. “And so as I grew up, going to public school, I kept that in my heart and mind. And I always knew I was different. But my art, I believe, reflects who I am.”

Travis Mammedaty

A job destroying exhibits at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, ignited a flame of artistic passion within Mammedaty.

It was a flame that had been dormant for years. He had always loved art – and history, hence his work at the museum – but he had never fully explored his talent. Before that job, drawing wasn’t even a hobby for Mammedaty. He said he was “just playing around” and then throwing in any sketches that came up.

But with each exhibit Mammedaty cleaned, his interest in pursuing art grew. He said he saw many Kiowa names near the art on the walls, which stood out to him because of his Kiowa heritage. He is also from the Cayuga Nation of Seneca-Cayuga.

“I started drawing more and then I started getting involved with painting and things like that and working in that kind of medium,” Mammedaty said. “And then it was like from that point, it was something I wanted to do.”

The 40-year-old artist, who now lives on a reservation in Arizona, said he has developed a kind of contemporary expressionist style since he began seriously pursuing art in 2017. He uses bold colors and brushstrokes with acrylic paint, though he sometimes works in coal .

Mammedaty said he draws from both sides of his heritage in his work. For the Seneca-Cayuga, he will sometimes create a description of a longhouse. For the Kiowa, he will look at their history of tipi, buffalo hunting and horse riding.

“It’s kind of like the kind of stuff I paint, but I paint it in a vibrant, colorful, abstract, expressionistic style, where it’s still connected to the past and I’m taking inspiration from it, but from myself. way”, said Mammedaty.

But regardless of his source of inspiration, Mammedaty finds himself mostly painting portraits – often of no one in particular. He just follows where his brush takes him.

Mammedaty hopes to one day open a gallery space where she can host lesser-known artists as well as language workshops and panels. Mammedaty is a Kiowa language instructor, and like art, language helps him express and preserve his culture.

“Your stories, your ceremonies, all those things revolve around your language,” Mammedaty said. “If you go to a sweat lodge, you go into a tipi to pray to … ancestors from long ago, they didn’t speak English. They speak Kiowa. So it’s really important that those things continue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *