Indigenous Futures: Fine art and stories, one comic at a time

Noel Franklin, cartoonist, print maker, poet, fundraiser, activist.Photo Courtesy of Noel Franklin.

Noel Franklin, cartoonist, print maker, poet, fundraiser, activist.
Photo Courtesy of Noel Franklin.

 

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

 

Recently, the Seattle Art Museum presented PechaKucha Seattle volume 63, titled Indigenous Futures. PechaKuchas are informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and present their ideas, works, thoughts – just about anything, really – in fun, relaxed spaces that foster an environment of learning and understanding. It would be easy to think PechaKuchas are all about the presenters and their presentation, but there is something deeper and a more important subtext to each of these events. They are all about togetherness, about coming together as a community to reveal and celebrate the richness and dimension contained within each one of us. They are about fostering a community through encouragement, friendship and celebration.

The origins of PechaKucha Nights stem from Tokyo, Japan and have since gone global; they are now happening in over 700 cities around the world. What made PechaKucha Night Seattle volume 63 so special was that it was comprised of all Native artists, writers, producers, performers, and activists presenting on their areas of expertise and exploring the realm of Native ingenuity in all its forms, hence the name Indigenous Futures.

 

comic 3

 

“If we are going to talk about Indigenous Culture, then we have to talk about representing ourselves. It is important for Native Americans to take over that part of representation. I do that through my comics.”

 

Noel Franklin is many things; a cartoonist, a print maker, a poet, a fundraiser and an activist. She worked with the United Indians of All Tribes Foundations, a foundation to serve as a focal point for the renewal and regeneration of Native Americans in the Greater Seattle area and beyond, to include the Northwest Native Canoe Center in the Lake Union Park masterplan. The Canoe Center will be an active cultural center where hands-on experiences teach visitors about Native American life while supporting the ongoing vibrancy of canoe culture traditions for present and future generations.

Noel’s comics have been published in more than five countries, and she is the first female artist to win the Emerald City Comic Con ‘I Heart Comics Art’ award. Noel’s current day job is at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“My father’s family is Eastern Band Cherokee and my mother’s family is from Scotland,” explains Noel. “My father joined the military like many male Native Americans, not too many options out there when you don’t have an education. I got to enjoy the poverty and intergenerational PTSD that so many of us are familiar with. As a youth I moved around so much because of the military that I was unable to really know my grandparents who spoke the Cherokee language and really lived their culture.”

Because of her father’s military career, Noel was constantly on the move from city to city. She was unable to make roots in any one location and felt isolated from her Native heritage. Her internal angst and loneliness would manifest itself on her canvas of choice, varying from paper for drawing and painting to stone-cold metal used for art welding.

“I art welded my way to a fine arts degree from Western Washington University,” says Noel. “Back then, in 1994, I didn’t think I knew who I was, but when I look back at my art I was painting and welding figures of crows, beetles and trees. I was talking to nature even though I didn’t know how to talk to nature. How did I know how to be Native when I was denied the ability? I continued to make art that reflected my pain of not knowing my own history and also the violence that came by growing up in a family that had multiple generations of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, I started learning about my Native culture and celebrating it as I learned.”

 

Comic 1

 

As she dedicated herself to learning about her Native heritage and the culture she was denied as a youth, Noel began to see the world differently. She looked at the world of art and representation through the eyes of a Native woman. She became self-conscious of a key theme that is prominent in the Native American resurgence; the misinterpretations of Native values and identity that act as continued colonization over Native peoples.

“So why do I now represent my culture through comics? Do you remember Peter Pan? I used to think I liked that movie, but as I grew older and learned of my heritage something changed,” recalls Noel. “I watched Peter Pan as an adult and was beyond offended at the ‘What Made the Red Man Red’ scene. I had to rethink a lot of things. If we are going to talk about Indigenous Culture, then we have to talk about representing ourselves. It is important for Native Americans to take over that part of representation. I do that through my comics.”

 

comic 4

 

Noel attributes her unique style, building dark and light shapes from densely knotted lines, to her experience with stone lithography.  She also feels that gutters between panels keep the viewer from total immersion in the world she invents in her stories.  In addition to creating Gone Girl Comics, she is a regular contributor to inkart.org and has multiple journal and anthology publications. Presently, Noel is working towards creating her first graphic novel.

“Page four of a story called Seagulls Screaming is about how Native American culture is present and visible in Seattle,” said Noel. “Native American culture is not going anywhere. You might recognize the totem pole from Victor Steinbrueck Park, located just on the outside of Pike Place Market.

“If I can leave you with anything at all it’s this: we can shape the physical Seattle, but until we shape our own lives by owning our own representation and telling our own stories, which will strengthen not only ourselves but others, we’re going to end up with ‘Why Is the Red Man Red’ for the rest of our lives. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in that at all.”

 

comic 5

Indigenous Futures: keeping the past alive

Four-side drum.Photo courtesy of Joe Seymour

Four-side drum.
Photo courtesy of Joe Seymour

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News Photo courtesy of Joe Seymour

Recently, the Seattle Art Museum presented PechaKucha Seattle volume 63, titled “Indigenous Futures.” PechaKuchas are informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and present their ideas, works, thoughts – just about anything, really – in fun, relaxed spaces that foster an environment of learning and understanding. It would be easy to think PechaKuchas are all about the presenters and their presentation, but there is something deeper and a more important subtext to each of these events. They are all about togetherness, about coming together as a community to reveal and celebrate the richness and dimension contained within each one of us. They are about fostering a community through encouragement, friendship and celebration.

The origins of PechaKucha Nights stem from Tokyo, Japan and have since gone global; they are now happening in over 700 cities around the world. What made PechaKucha Night Seattle volume 63 so special was that it was comprised of all Native artists, writers, producers, performers, and activists presenting on their areas of expertise and exploring the realm of Native ingenuity in all its forms, hence the name Indigenous Futures.

Joe Seymour, a member of the Squaxin Island Tribe, is geoduck harvester and a leader of his canoe family, but most importantly he is a Coast Salish artist who works with a vast array of mediums. He has demonstrated his artistic touch with blown glass, etched glass, prints, wood, Salish wool weaving, canvas and traditional rawhide drums. His ancestral name, wahalatsu?, was given to him by his family in 2003. Wahalatsu? was the name of his great-grandfather William Bagley.

 

Faith, Wisdom and Strength. Photo courtesy of Joe Seymour

Faith, Wisdom and Strength.
Photo courtesy of Joe Seymour

 

Seymour started his artistic career by carving his first paddle for the 2003 Tribal Journey to Tulalip. Also, in 2003, he carved his first bentwood box. After the Tulalip journey, he really began to focus on his artistic abilities he found were coming so natural him. After learning how to stretch and make traditional rawhide drums, Seymour pushed his creative limits even further by learning how to pull a four-sided drum. The inspiration for learning the four-sided drum method came from his uncle Phil and the late Makah hereditary chief, Lester Hamilton Greene.

“One of the reasons I wanted to work with so many mediums is that all of them together encompass what Coast Salish culture is to me,” explains Seymour of his diversity of art mediums. “We talk about indigenous futures and right now I’m focused on taking the Coast Salish culture into the future by keeping its past alive. I do this by bringing it into the modern world by my weaving, by my drawing, by my painting…I do that with the paddles that I carve.

There aren’t many people who can pull a four-sided drum. I’ve only seen maybe three other people who can do it. If you ever want to learn or know someone who wants to learn, please let me know as I’m more than willing to share our cultural knowledge. Artistic methods are a critical part of our culture and I believe they should be shared willingly, not just held hostage by any single individual.”

 

Photo courtesy of Joe Seymour

Photo courtesy of Joe Seymour

 

Since discovering his inner artist by way of the 2003 Tribal Journey to Tulalip, Seymour has gone on to participate in the international gathering of Indigenous Artists, PIKO 2007, in Hawaii, and he also participated in the Te Tihi, 4th Gathering of Indigenous Visual Artists, in Rotorua, New Zealand, in 2010.

“It’s an honor to have the opportunities to travel the world and meet fellow indigenous; to see and share our cultures via artistic expression,” says Seymour. “The indigenous future of the peoples in the Pacific Northwest is very bright. We have such a wonderful array of spirit, tradition, and pride.

In my career, I’ve worked with glass, photography, Salish wool weaving, prints, wood, and rawhide drums. I’ve been very fortunate to have a community of artists that I’m able to work with and who are very supportive of my career. If it were not for their caring and sharing of ideas, I would not be the artist that I am today. I hope that as I continue in my artistic career, I can pass on the teachings and nurturing spirit that have been shown to me.”

Siblings. Photo courtesy of Joe Seymour

Siblings.
Photo courtesy of Joe Seymour

 

Indigenous Futures: Mixing Pop-Culture with Native American design

 

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Steer Clear. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

Steer Clear.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

Recently, the Seattle Art Museum presented PechaKucha Seattle volume 63, titled Indigenous Futures. PechaKuchas are informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and present their ideas, works, thoughts – just about anything, really – in fun, relaxed spaces that foster an environment of learning and understanding. It would be easy to think PechaKuchas are all about the presenters and their presentation, but there is something deeper and a more important subtext to each of these events. They are all about togetherness, about coming together as a community to reveal and celebrate the richness and dimension contained within each one of us. They are about fostering a community through encouragement, friendship and celebration.

The origins of PechaKucha Nights stem from Tokyo, Japan and have since gone global; they are now happening in over 700 cities around the world. What made PechaKucha Night Seattle volume 63 so special was that it was comprised of all Native artists, writers, producers, performers, and activists presenting on their areas of expertise and exploring the realm of Native ingenuity in all its forms, hence the name Indigenous Futures.

 

Star Wars.photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

Star Wars.
photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

 

Jeffrey Veregge is an award winning Native American comic book artist from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe in Kingston, Washington. His work uses Coastal Salish and contemporary graphic design techniques that created the look dubbed ‘Salish Geek’ by his creative peers. Along with his work for IDW Publishing, he has appeared in numerous websites and publications such as Fast Company Magazine, Cowboys and Indians, and Wired Magazine. His works and commissions are part of some prestigious collections located at Yale University, Washington State University, The Burke Museum and the Seattle Art Museum. He’s also the pop and nerd culture contributor for Indian Country Today Media, where he is known as NDN Geek.

“A member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, I was raised and spent a majority of my life on our reservation known locally as Little Boston, which is located near Kingston, Washington. Although I am enrolled there, I am also both of Suquamish and Duwamish ancestry,” says Veregge. “I am an honor graduate from the Art Institute of Seattle, and I have had the privilege to study with Tsimshian master carver David Boxley for a short time learning the basics of Salish form-line design.

“For the past 10 years I have been employed as Lead Designer/Studio Manager for a media agency that specializes in non-profits. My work is a reflection of a lifetime love affair with comic books, toys, TV and film; taking my passions and blending them with my Native perspective.”

Veregge has been an artist since the moment he was able to hold his first action figure and create stories of his childhood superheroes on paper with whatever art utensils were available. That creative fire and passion for superheroes and comics never faded and eventually led him to the Seattle Art Institute where he studied industrial design technology. Later, he was fortunate to study with Boxley to learn the basics of Salish form line design, a traditional style that influenced the superhero comics yet to come.

After graduating from the Seattle Art Institute, Veregge had a great job at an advertising agency for eleven years. Working in advertising allowed him to tap into his creative side, but the Native artist within wasn’t satisfied, he needed something more. He went to art school to be an artist and to have fun, not to have his inner artist constrained by the everyday politics of advertising. Being an artist wasn’t just to sell art and make money for Veregge, it meant having fun, it meant viewing a blank piece of paper as a magical canvas to express the imagination of a cluttered mind of a Native American who loves comics, movies, Sci-Fi, and action figures. So he left the advertising agency and embarked on an artist’s mission to create something truly unique. The search for a new, personal and bold direction in his work resulted in Veregge creating Native Superhero comics

 

Visit Seattle. photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

Visit Seattle.
photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

 

“For me it wasn’t just trying to create art as a geek or nerd, but as a Native I felt like I had something unique to offer,” Veregge says. “That’s my appreciation for all art and design, my passion for heroes, robots, aliens and monsters, and my pride in where I came from.

“My origins are not supernatural, nor have they been enhanced by radioactive spiders. I am simply a Native American artist and writer whose creative mantra in best summed up with a word from my tribe’s own language: ‘taʔčaʔx̣ʷéʔtəŋ’, which means ‘get into trouble’.”

Creating Native Superhero comics and the website jeffreyveregge.com is a reflection of a lifetime love affair with comic books, toys, TV and film. Taking his passions and blending them with his Native perspective, artistic background and the desire to simply be true to himself. The work he creates now takes who he is as a Native person, his love for graphic art and design, and his passions and blends them all together into a new art form that he loves and has fun creating.

“Basically I am just trying to have fun and get back to that kid that went to art school to begin with, wanting to create artwork that I want to see and make just for the hell of it,” describes Veregge of the bold new art he creates today. “There is a time and place for preserving the old ways, the traditions, but then there is the call for all artists to push the limits, find new ways to say things, and new stories to tell.”

12th. photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

12th.
photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

Transformers. photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

Transformers.
photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

 

photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

photo courtesy of Jeffrey Veregge

 

 

Contact Micheal Rios, mrios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Indigenous Futures: Indian Heritage Murals

Mural_3

Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Recently, the Seattle Art Museum presented PechaKucha Seattle volume 63, titled Indigenous Futures. PechaKuchas are informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and present their ideas, works, thoughts – just about anything, really – in fun, relaxed spaces that foster an environment of learning and understanding. It would be easy to think PechaKuchas are all about the presenters and their presentation, but there is something deeper and a more important subtext to each of these events. They are all about togetherness, about coming together as a community to reveal and celebrate the richness and dimension contained within each one of us. They are about fostering a community through encouragement, friendship and celebration.

The origins of PechaKucha Nights stem from Tokyo, Japan and have since gone global; they are now happening in over 700 cities around the world. What made PechaKucha Night Seattle volume 63 so special was that it was comprised of all Native artists, writers, producers, performers, and activists presenting on their areas of expertise and exploring the realm of Native ingenuity in all its forms, hence the name Indigenous Futures.

 

Andrew Morrison.Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

Andrew Morrison.
Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

Andrew Morrison, San Carlos Apache and Haida, is a phenomenal painter and muralist who is proud to call Seattle his home, he is a great 12th Man Seahawks fan, and considers a blank wall his absolute greatest resource. Morrison’s PechaKucha presentation was on the past, present, and future of the great Indian Heritage High School murals he created of Chief Sealth, Chief Joseph, Geronimo, and Chief Sitting Bull.

“Being a Native person, I really take a lot of pride in painting and creating murals. It truly is an honor every day to be able to celebrate the Native American arts through my craft,” says Morrison. “The goal of my painting is to better myself, my family and the community.”

Morrison and many of his friends attended Indian Heritage High School (IHS) in Seattle. In 2001, after attending college, Morrison began volunteering in the art program and noticed there was a void within the school. “I saw there wasn’t a lot of artwork on the walls of the school. The walls were very blank and very dormant, without energy. As a muralist, as a painter, I’m always striving for larger surfaces,” explained Morrison of his motivation to begin painting 25-foot by 100-foot large murals of Native American heroes.

It was a twelve-year project to completely finish the four mammoth murals on IHS, beginning in 2001 and being completed in 2013. The massive portraits of Native American heroes was noticed by news outlets, tribal and non-tribal alike. The portraits are a source of pride for many Native people who don’t see their heroes recognized as they should be. Unfortunately, there were those who saw the massive portraits as an opportunity to vandalize another’s work to showcase their own ignorance, as the mantra goes, ‘haters gonna hate’. Over the weekend of February 24, 2015 a local graffiti crew desecrated the murals by splattering white latex paint all over them.

 

Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

 

Only days later a cleanup operation, led by Morrison, consisting of 30-35 volunteers worked tirelessly to remove the white spray-paint and restore the murals to their former glory. As if the vandals’ desecrations wasn’t enough, soon after restoring the murals Morrison learned there was a proposal in the Seattle School District to demolish Indian Heritage High School, along with his murals.

“I fought and advocated for a  year straight, twelve months exactly, to preserve these murals. I felt these images of our Native American warrior chiefs were so sacred and so holy that to demolish them to the ground would be another form of desecration. That was a very tumultuous battle and fight, but I give the credit to the community and the people who believe in art and believe in our indigenous culture. Through the power of togetherness we were able to get the Seattle School District to vote to preserve these murals. Now, these murals are presented prepped and ready to go as they will be built into the new Wilson Pacific Schools to be opened next year.

“Especially after living through experiences like these, it actually inspires me to paint bigger and larger and be more creative and go more in depth. It is heartwarming to know that the murals will continue to witness life and be an inspiration at the new Wilson Pacific Schools.”

 

Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison