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Southeastern Native American Art Movement

Some of the earliest work of this movement came in the 1970’s from Cherokee Master Artist, Anna B. Mitchell (1926), whose award-winning traditional Cherokee pottery challenged the commercial, stereotypical concept of American Indian Art. Mitchell’s well-researched works helped re-awaken the art community to the fact that the Southeastern Woodlands are the ancestral homelands of the Cherokee -- not the plains of Oklahoma. Prior to 1970, many Cherokee artists were utilizing Plains Indian and Southwestern Indian artistic styles and themes in their works. And while this may have been commercially successful, it lacked a certain authenticity, which Mitchell’s works brought to light.

In stark contrast to SW and Plains tribal art, Southeastern/Woodland art employs effigies and rich iconography that depicts mythical creatures, sacred plants, animals, reptiles, insects, goddesses, and rituals that are unique to the Southeast. The notion of recapturing authenticity invited a whole new generation of Cherokee artists to examine and utilize ancient Cherokee design, cosmology, and history in their work.

From 1980 and forward, several notable “authentic” Cherokee artists began to emerge. For example, the intricately beaded bandolier bags, moccasins, and sashes, by Cherokee Beader, Martha Berry, are not only beautiful works of art, but carry with them a history of ancient Cherokee geometric designs, life and dress. The militaristic depictions of historical figures and events by Cherokee painter/sculptor, Talmadge Davis (1962-2005) fit well within this movement – as do the works of Cherokee potters Victoria Mitchell Vasquez, Bill Glass, Chrystal Hanna and several others. Also noteworthy is the Chattanoogas 21 Century Riverfront Project (2005) in which Irla and several other Cherokee artists assisted the GaDuGi art- team of Bill Glass, Demos Glass, Robby McMurtry, Gary Allen and Ken Foster. Like Anna Mitchell, these and other artists have contributed to and helped preserve the knowledge base of Cherokee Woodland life, which was previously nearly lost to Western assimilation, Indian removal, and Pan-Indian artistic conflation.

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