Lesson: Stories Through Art
There is no one right way to create. When you look at the great artists throughout history, no matter what culture they come from, most of them did not go by certain rules. They created what they wanted to create, how they wanted to create it. Because they were different from everybody, their brush strokes were different or the colors that they used were different. That makes you stand out. You don’t want to be like everybody else. You want to create something that has a connection to you.
–Katrina Mitten, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma
Learning Objective: After learning about Katrina Mitten’s work, Strength Among the Birches, students will create artwork that tells a story.
Family is incredibly important to Katrina Mitten, and she has a strong connection to the women in her family – those who came before, and those yet to come. This partly comes from the vital roles women have in Miami culture, and in many other cultures, among them the ability to bring new life into the world. In this piece she created using a 1920s-era doctor’s bag, Katrina is telling a story. That story, expressed through batik fabric and beadwork, speaks of Indigenous women coming together among the birches to help with the continuing generations.
Look closely at the photos of Katrina’s piece called Strength Among the Birches. What do you notice? The women are dressed differently – representing different times and places. The woman about to give birth is dressed in a modern style dress with a spiral representing a new continuation of Indigenous people. The woman with her is in customary Myaamia clothing with a doctor-style bag to help. On the back of the bag, two women journey toward them wearing two additional types of Eastern Native clothing. According to Katrina, “the bag tells the story of strength of our women throughout time here on Turtle Island”.
Katrina Mitten (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma), “Strength Among the Birches,” 18”L x 15”H x 9” W, Images courtesy of the artist
Ask a friend, family member, or elder in the local community to share a story with you. That story could be about something important in their life or in the local community, something funny that happened, or an everyday occurrence – like walking the dog. Write the story down so you do not miss any important details, then create a visual artwork that illustrates the story. How will you show it in a way viewers can understand? Will your piece be flat like a drawing, painting, or collage or will it be three-dimensional like a block of wood, box, or mobile?
Using your story as a guide, go to work. Take your time. Have fun!
Words you need to know
Doing something in the same way over time.
Printing designs on cloth by applying melted wax to sections of the cloth, then dying the unwaxed sections.
A group of people living close together or sharing similar lifestyles, interests, or beliefs.
Someone who is older than you.
The name many Native American and Indigenous peoples call North America.