An artist can only convey through his or her work the experience they have encountered, confronted, and endured. From an early age I was taught that all life is sacred and that all life is intertwined, with no separation.
In the Kanien’keha (Mohawk) language, my name is “Otsisto” (oh-dzis-doh), which in English means “Star”. I am a member of the Bear Clan and grew up learning about the Longhouse, our spiritual, political and social place of gathering.
As a Mohawk woman born and raised in Kahnawake, I am influenced by the strong sense of family, community, identity and respect for the land. This was never more evident than in the summer of 1990 when we were forced to protect Mother Earth, ourselves, and our rights.
This incident epitomizes the struggles that our people, all First Nations, have endured. Despite an unkind and often tragic history, many First Nation’s people have borne hardship in this country while retaining a strong cultural identity. This is an aspect of ourselves, and myself, that I enjoy conveying.
Despite such epic, as well as minor, everyday conflicts, First Nation cultures and traditions continue to be very vital, rich and evolving. Some of my work may speak of anguish and pain earned by the daily struggle to co-exist within the dominant society. Other works speak of the beauty and respectful relationship that all humans should strive to have with each other, the animals, and the earth.
My work entails the use of a variety of oil and acrylic colors, charcoal, wax crayons, pencil, xerography, photography, ink, digital works using Inkscape and works created on an iPad using apps such as Procreate or Paper 53, that allows me to express, visually, my interpretation of the world. In interpreting the Aboriginal world, I have not limited myself. My work expresses spiritual, historical and contemporary views.
Since my beginnings in Kahnawake, I travelled extensively. I have also lived in both the west coast of Canada and just outside of Ottawa. From my various travels I have encountered Aboriginals as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and Nicaragua, as well as the much closer, James Bay Cree, Coast Salish of Tsawwassen, and the Algonquin.
For as long as I can remember I have been drawing. Alongside that, I have been creating jewelry. After years of stowing away my beading cloth, I decided that I wanted to start making Aboriginal jewelry again as I had done so many years ago with my mother’s guidance.
So over the last few years I have created everything from men’s and women’s breastplates to porcupine quill earrings and bone chokers. The many pieces you will see in the Gallery section are in the style of the Plains, Nez Perce, as well as Mohawk people’s.
My designs stem from traditional methods carried over generations. To gather ideas and inspiration, for years, I have poured over old books and numerous black and white ‘portraits’ of North American Aboriginal people shown in full regalia. Credit goes to my mother who years ago re-designed the jewelry using these old photographs as guides and re-created the pieces such as the breastplates and Nez Perce necklaces. She taught me how to use both ancient and more modern materials in stringing some of the necklaces.
My choice of color combinations comes from my own favourite color palette; it mirrors the one I employ in many of my paintings. The browns, blacks and greens of the natural world (found in the leather, brass, and aged bone) are accentuated with the bright hits of reds, turquoise, and white. Sparkle and shine were adored centuries ago as they are today and this is refelected in the subtle use of metals such as brass and silver. Using shells such as conch, abalone, and dentalia lend their own natural shapes, textures, and brilliant colors to each piece.
Jewelry can be subtle or it can shout out with attitude; I enjoy creating both styles. My smaller and more delicate porcupine quill earrings and necklaces can accentuate an outfit while my larger bone breastplates can be worn by pow wow dancers in full regalia or with a simple black dress or shirt for an evening out. For collectors who prefer to hang the pieces as art rather than wear them, the choice of professional framing is also available.
If you don’t find what you are looking for, please feel free to write as I am also able to accommodate custom orders.
Whether you wish to own one of these hand-made pieces or not, it is my hope that you enjoy viewing them, as I have once again appreciated the journey of creating them.
Star Horn :: Masterworks East Participant 2009
Star Horn, of Okwari Essentials Art Studio, is proud to announce that one of her pieces of jewelry, a Nez Perce Style Necklace made with Cebu Beauty Heishi shell, was selected to be part of Masterworks East.
Masterworks East is a juried travelling exhibition co-ordinated by the Craft Ontario (formally the Ontario Craft Council) featuring the finest craft in eastern Ontario. This exhibition presents objects from a deverse array of media and approaches that assert the talents of eastern regional makers.
Collectively, these works are a testament to craftmanship, innovative design, conceptual prowess and emotive artistic expression. This exhibition will tour throuhgout eastern Ontario from March to October 2009.
Cornwall Regional Art Gallery:: Belleville Public Library/John M. Parrot Gallery:: Rails End Arts Centre:: South of 60 Arts Centre