The Queue: Dyani White Hawk
Discover what individuals from our craft community are into right now.
Introducing the Gift series of The Queue
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, the Gift series of The Queue introduces you to the artists featured in the most recent issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as the projects, books, podcasts, and more that are inspiring them right now.
Sharing gifts and gratitude through one's creations
Dyani White Hawk (Sičáŋǧu Lakota) is a visual artist and independent curator based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is one of three artists featured in "The Gifts in Making." In collaboration with the American Craft Council, The Great Northern Festival, and Faribault Woolen Mill, Dyani has also designed a limited-edition blanked entitled Guided, which is available for pre-order now (read more below). @dwhitehawk
How do you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
I am a visual artist. My studio practice is rooted in the histories of abstraction found in easel painting and Indigenous arts such as beadwork and quillwork. My practice intertwines these histories physically and conceptually, primarily through two-dimensional pieces, yet recent works have incorporated sculpture, photography, and video installation.
During this time of isolation and social unrest, where are you finding beauty and how are you staying grounded?
I find beauty in the tremendous amounts of work being done to achieve social justice and to push back against the racial, sexual, gender, age, and socio-economic discrimination plaguing our country and our world. Seeing people come together in increasing numbers and ways to demand a healthier future for all life is a beautiful thing.
I find beauty in my children, my family, friendships, and another day of life given. An active and intentional practice of gratitude is always important, but all the more apparent in times like this when we are also faced with increased and deep struggle.
Running, creating, and prayer have long been my greatest sources of therapy or re-centering. When I am really struggling, it is these things, combined with active gratitude and my family that I lean on to help bring me back to my center, to remain grounded and present.
You have designed a blanket that will be made by Faribault Woolen Mill in celebration of The Great Northern Festival, occurring in Minnesota in January and February 2021, and in partnership with ACC. While designing this blanket, what traditions or new practices did you draw upon?
The symbolism included in my blanket design draws from the traditions of Lakota artwork, including porcupine quillwork and beadwork. Additionally, there is definitely an element of this style of banded wool blanket that has strong roots in Navajo weaving, which Lakota people have traded for and treasured for generations. The color palette also speaks to Lakota aesthetics.
While the aesthetic influences reach as far back as Lakota creation stories, I used my MacBook Pro and a design program to create the work. Furthermore, this blanket would not exist if it were not for the technologies used at Faribault Woolen Mill and partnerships with The Great Northern and ACC.
On the theme of our December/January issue, what does giving mean to you and your work, particularly during this challenging year?
There is a strong emphasis on generosity and reciprocity within Lakota culture. Therefore, it is a guiding force within my practice and life choices. I acknowledge and am thankful for the gifts the generations of artists and creators that came before me have given us. Their work has been passed down as a gift we are blessed to continue today. As artists, we share our creations with our communities and hope that it blesses the lives of others in ways that match the blessings it brings to our own. I have recently reached a place where I can give financial contributions to causes and work I believe in through the sales of my work. This is something I am very excited about and looking forward to continuing to build into my practice in varied and thoughtful ways.
What’s an exhibition or art project you think the world should know about?
"Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists," a traveling exhibition originated at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and is now in it’s last few weeks in its final stop at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Even if you are not able to see the exhibition in person, this is an exhibit to log into your mental catalogue. This groundbreaking exhibition brought together more than 20 Native and non-Native women artists, curators, and academics and partnered with an extensive number of community members to present works and educational opportunities featuring artwork by Native women spanning more than 1,000 years and from more than 115 artists. There have been many online resources created—TV features, articles, interviews, educational materials—and an extensive catalogue produced.
Christi Belcourt (Michif), The Wisdom of the Universe, 2014, acrylic on canvas, Collection Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Purchased with funds donated by Greg Latremoille, 2014, 2014/6. © Christi Belcourt
What podcast should we be listening to right now?
I’ve been enjoying Hear to Slay, The Trevor Noah podcast, and Crime Junkie.
Hear to Slay because the hosts are brilliant. Their description states it’s the “black feminist podcast of your dreams,” and it's true. They balance challenging content with humor and the real. I thoroughly enjoy every episode.
The Trevor Noah Podcast because the exchanges between Trevor and his co-host David Kibuuka are hilarious and ever entertaining. They also have informative episodes providing a great balance of education and humor. The October episode, "Vaccine Karate Club" (S02, E22), was a recent highlight. It was fascinating listening to Dr. Paul Duprex, Director of Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine speak about vaccine science and history, something we all could use more accessible conversation on right now.
Crime Junkie because the approach of this cold-case murder and missing persons investigative podcast is about keeping these cases alive in the hopes to find justice for the families and loved ones of the victims. Even though it is hard to know the depths of depravity in our world, it is also very important to be aware of the dangers that surround us so we can work to keep ourselves and loved ones safe, especially as women. The hosts provide what they call “life rules” such as “Be Weird, Be Rude, Stay Alive” which urges us to embrace that we do not need to be nice when our instincts are warning us we may be in a dangerous situation.
What book should we be reading or paying attention to right now?
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, published in 2013. This book blends knowledge about the land through both scientific and Indigenous knowledge perspectives. As our population becomes increasingly detached from the land, the beautiful story telling style of knowledge delivery on the very thing that sustains us all is a tremendous eye-opening, soul-filling gift to humanity.
As artists, we share our creations with our communities and hope that it blesses the lives of others in ways that match the blessings it brings to our own.
Inspired by the people featured in The Queue?
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