Colleen Friday’s nature-inspired contemporary artwork is a confluence of identities

The Northern Arapaho artist discusses her creative process, Native American representation in contemporary art and how everything is connected.
Artist Colleen Friday stands next to a piece entitled "Wind River Buffalo." (Jack Catlin / KHOL)

by | Oct 21, 2022 | Community Events, Culture

Jackson’s Center for the Arts has a new must-see arts exhibition. Colleen Friday, a Northern Arapaho artist and ecosystem scientist who is the recipient of the Wyoming Arts Council’s inaugural Native Art Fellowship award, is presenting “Confluence | Nonoono’wu’” in the Center Theater Gallery.

Friday works in many different art mediums and her studies in rangeland ecology, environment and natural resources are interwoven in her creative work. Her most recent project focuses on beadwork as data visualization representing geography, water and the biodiversity of plants harbored in tribal lands.

In advance of her art opening and live talk at the Center Theater Gallery, on Thursday, Oct. 20, Friday joined us in the KHOL Studios.

Listen above for more and check out a transcript of the interview below. This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

KHOL/JACK CATLIN: What is your creative process when starting new artwork? What does it take to get from that original seed of an idea to the fully realized final piece?

COLLEEN FRIDAY:  It can take different forms. Like sometimes in my creative process, I want to be more experimental. So like the hand-dyed sort of circles are from natural plants or a cochineal bug. So figuring out how to create color from these natural pigments that you can get from different places. One is rabbit brush that I just cut from around my house and boiled it … to make it into a dye and then started dropping circles into it. So it’s definitely wanting to learn something new and then figuring out, ‘Well, how can I make this into something bigger?’ And then connecting that to the buffalo herds on the reservation and going out and collecting soil because the buffalo that are printed on the circles are soil that I collected from the pastures, the buffalo pastures, so that it connects it to place and identity. It means more when you’re like using the actual stuff from the place.

KHOL: You are the recipient of the inaugural Native Art Fellowship Award from the Wyoming Arts Council, whose goal is to raise the profiles of the highly talented Native artists in Wyoming and celebrate their artistry. Can you touch on the importance of having Native representation in contemporary art in general, and what this award specifically means to you?

FRIDAY: For me, the representation is important because not all Native artists are traditional ceramicists. Not everyone does traditional, realistic sort of imagery of people in their tribe. Not all Indigenous artists are doing beadwork traditionally, they incorporate different ideas and different ways of creating beadwork, or they use collage or stamping or some imagery that is different. So it’s nice to be the person that represents the more contemporary use of art.

KHOL: Can you tell us about your inspiration for and execution of this particular collection?

FRIDAY: For me, it was more experimenting, being able to get the fellowship and having extra financial support. It was nice to use different materials and be able to create new art. The imagery is linked to some of the history in Jackson, as well as some general history in the Plains Indian community. And so it definitely is a mixed bag of art that I’m showing, but definitely connects in some way.

KHOL:  So Jackson actually inspired some of the collection.

FRIDAY: Yeah, I was just researching the Elk Refuge and how there was a conflict in figuring out how do I represent that without saying it literally, you know, like let people walk through and see what they see when they see some of the pieces.

Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Colleen Friday.

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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