Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee) and Chris Pappan (Kansa)
Arches watercolor paper, archival ink, acrylic paint and gold foil
9” X 9” X 19.5”
Last summer at Indian Market, Chris approached me about collaborating on a piece; I was delighted with the request and the possibilities this effort could represent! We both are ardent supporters of SWAIA, valuing the incredible impact this organization has had during its long history of promoting Native artists and boosting countless careers. Working all winter via email and phone, Chris and I came up with several ideas, always aware of the ongoing challenges that organizations of this size and scope face. With this in mind, we conceived a piece inspired by the potential created when forces join together. This action often produces something of formidable strength. We also knew that we wanted to donate this work to SWAIA for fundraising.
Chris is known for his exquisite graphic drawings on original ledger sheets. He chose this image of the Kansa woman Lizzie Mehoja, Osage Chief Bacon Rind’s second wife. The Kaw and the Osage were once related but split apart, although they still remain culturally similar. Both the intermarriage and the mirrored image reinforce the idea of coming together to become stronger. This 1871 ledger sheet is from a jewelry store that survived the Chicago fire- another metaphor of the resilience and strength of Indian people. He added a map of modern day Missouri to his piece, representing the original territory where the Wahzhazhe (Osage) and the Kansa (Kaw) once lived. It is ornamented with Osage symbols and colors that are significant to the Osage, Kanza and Cherokee. Chris sent his finished, original drawing to me, which I digitally reproduced and printed onto Arches Watercolor paper.
My recent work is inspired by Cherokee basketry- I am influenced by our traditional shapes and weaving techniques but instead of using the ancient river cane and oak splints of my people, I weave paper splints cut from reproductions of documents, photographs, etc. Featured on the exterior of this piece is the reproduction from Chris’s drawing on the ledger sheet. Because of our sincere hopes for SWAIA’s continued successes, I asked Chris to send a Kanza prayer, which I combined on the interior of this basket with a Cherokee one. (The combination with the gold foil is a reminder of the sanctity of these prayers.) I also chose to weave using the Cherokee pattern entitled Water because of the way that small streams join together to form mighty rivers. I am not sure how it happened but midway through the weaving, I realized that the pattern changed itself into one called “Chief’s Heart” … these wonderful surprises sometimes happen in my work, reinforcing my convictions that my work is continually guided by the ancestors. (When I texted this to Chris during one of many late night photo-exchange correspondences, he replied that this precious phenomena happens to him too. As artists, we cherish these gifts.) I interpret this pattern as a beautiful testament to the strong hearts of many brave leaders. Finally, as a nod to Chris’s rich drawing, I added a map on the interior showing the route between the Cherokee ancestral homeland in NC and the forced destination in Oklahoma Indian Territory. In the same style of Chris’s ledger drawings, on the map I drew a picture of the site most sacred to the Cherokee- The Kituwah Mound, a place that connects the Cherokee people even though we are now spread far apart, from North Carolina to Oklahoma and beyond. The rim of this tower basket is deliberately splayed. The prayers inside are open to us should we decide to embrace them.
In closing, I’d like to thank Chris for the opportunity to work with him because he is a talented professional, dedicated to representing Native People with authenticity and respect through his art. I deeply appreciate his thoughtful and receptive outlook on our spirit of collaboration and I enjoyed getting to know him better. This was such a rewarding and educational experience (not to mention FUN!) and it reaffirms my belief that if we work with each other, we can accomplish greater things than alone. My hope is that Enduring Strength inspires other instances of combining visions and efforts no matter whether it is for SWAIA, among artists, tribes or in daily life.
My humble thanks. Aho!
I first met Shan Goshorn at the Heard Museum Indian market a few years ago, and was amazed at the revolutionary technique she was applying to a traditional art form. I felt that she and I were on a similar wavelength in terms of how we want to represent our people and our cultures, and through this collaboration, I learned this to be true. Last year as I was preparing for the Santa Fe Indian Market I thought I would approach her about collaborating. I realize now that I wasn’t prepared for the power and intensity of the finished product.
The Santa Fe Indian Market is the largest Native Art market in the world! Participating in something so immense is challenging, exciting, fun, rewarding, complicated, and an experience that changes you and your career forever. Not to mention what it takes to organize such an event every year. I approached Shan during the market, and just quickly asked if she was interested in collaborating. As a lot of other artist-to-artist encounters that happen that weekend, it was short but sweet, but I was so thrilled that she was excited to work with me. Our first order of business was to figure out to whom we would donate this endeavor, and since we both had participated in the SWAIA market, and given the recent challenges and changes that SWAIA had gone through, we decided to give back to the small organization that completes the Herculean task of putting on the market every year. That then dictated the content of the piece. We wanted to emphasize strength, unity, beauty, healing, and a collaborative spirit.
The drawing I did is of Lizzie Bacon Rind (nee Ne Ho Jah) a Kanza woman who married Osage Chief Bacon Rind. I felt she had a graceful presence and embodied the essence of unity, as well as the mirroring image (as is typical in my work). The drawing is done on a Chicago jeweler’s ledger from 1871, which survived the great Chicago Fire, just as our people have survived uncountable hardships. I also integrated a section of a contemporary road map of Missouri, original homelands to the Osage and Kanza to symbolize our strong connections to the earth. The hands represent our people, and unity among all peoples of all colors. The spider motif is one that symbolizes strength and wisdom.
Working with Shan was wonderful. At first I was little concerned about trying to collaborate with someone without being physically in either of our workspaces. But her professionalism and knowledge of her craft quickly allayed those concerns. I really wanted her to weave the actual drawing into the basket, but Shan couldn’t bear the thought of cutting up an original drawing, and fortunately, it wouldn’t work with her technique. That is just one example of our long distance collaborative process. I feel the most difficult part of the whole process was coming up with a title. We had specific intentions with this foray, but how to express that into words? Luckily I have a brilliant partner, my wife Debra, who pitched in a few key ideas for the piece and also came up with the title Enduring Strength. So this was not just a collaboration between Shan and myself, it was a group effort.
As I said in the beginning, I was not prepared the final result of our collaboration. When I saw images of the completed basket, I literally got goose bumps. All of the emotions that we wanted to express are powerfully conveyed. The intensity, heart and emotion that is put into Shan’s work is clearly evident and to be able to be a part of that has been and extreme honor. To know also that this piece will help an organization that has helped out so many people, promoted traditional and contemporary native arts and crafts is also a great honor. I also hope that we can be an inspiration to others to give back to a community, in any way they can.