Santa Fe, New Mexico
Beadwork is in Teri Greeves’s blood. She is an enrolled member of the Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, whose beadwork is integral to tribal identity. Greeves’s grandmother, Suzy Ataumbi Big Eagle, was an award-winning bead artist. As a newborn, Greeves, now 52, was brought home in a beaded Kiowa cradleboard. Her mother, Jeri Ah-be-hill, sold beadwork by Native artists from around the country at her trading post on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Unsurprisingly, by the age of 8, Greeves was stringing beads and learning stitchwork. Her first project: a pair of beaded baby moccasins.
Today, her artfully beaded Chuck Taylor sneakers and stiletto heels—as well as her beaded books, jewelry, and sculptures using deer hide, beads, and everyday objects—are in such public collections as the Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona; the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Brooklyn Museum; the Denver Art Museum; the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the New Mexico Museum of Art; and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her work blends the abstract, geometric tradition of Kiowa beadwork with more pictorial and narrative styles, resulting in a visual language and voice that are singularly her own.
A graduate of UC–Santa Cruz, Greeves won Best of Show at Santa Fe Indian Market in 1999, was featured in PBS’s Craft in America, and was named a 2016 United States Artists Distinguished Fellow in Traditional Arts. In support of others like her, Greeves co-curated the exhibition Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists, a national, traveling, blockbuster exhibition that explored the artistic achievements of Native women and established their rightful place in the art world.
Still, Greeves beads to honor her mother and grandmother, and the great-grandmothers who painted on buckskin. “Within Native America,” she says, “the beads are as valuable as diamonds, and yet the value we place on them is for cultural, spiritual, personal reasons. The beads themselves, as a medium, are only a means to those prayers.”
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