I combine traditional Indigenous pedagogy with contemporary art and education models to create work that speaks to sustainability, health, and connection.
A Tulsa-born, feminist, Osage/Chicana artist, I straddle Indigenous intersections of art, ecology, and ways of knowing. Utilizing ceramics, painting, weaving, installation, ephemera, land, and photography, I explore concepts of Seven Generations, universal connection, and community. My life and art resist settler narratives telling us all Natives are dead. We artists, scientists, and healers are still here. Beautifully and exuberantly alive, we continue walking our ancestors’ path of resistance—living, creating, and telling the truths of our existence.
Experimenting with Indigenous firing practices and using naturally-sourced items from the tallgrass prairie, I create textiles and ceramics showing our innate relationships to earth, land, and place. Exploring ritual-making and ceremony, I fill unfired clay cups with water, let them slowly change and dissolve to release the contents within. Working with local ecosystems, I create ephemeral art that pays homage to the complex cycles of life and nature, honoring traditional values of stewardship and respect. In my teaching practices, I guide children in their curiosity about nature, encouraging healing actions of waste reduction, facilitating restorative seed planting, observing the interrelation of all beings with whom we share the planet, and expressing gratitude. My desire is to facilitate nuanced understandings of transgenerational connection, sustainable ecological processes, and challenge Western anthropocentric worldviews.
A woman raised and living in oppressive kyriarchy, I am radicalized into action by a status quo that perpetuates violence and ecocide on levels that kill us. I believe these aggressive tendencies stem from a lack of spiritual connection to self, land, and other entities—living and non, creating feedback loops of fear, rage, and greed. Concluding the way to combat these systems is through a soft revolution, and in response to Trump’s election, I began leading women’s circles and co-founded femme-identifying art collective Holy Mother, as a foundation to build community, offer support, collaborate, and grow in love. During the six-week run of our public installation _Space, Held_ we hosted sixteen free community events focusing on healing practices. From this, Holy Mother members began founding other collectives, including Black Moon, a Black art collective, and Sextet, a photography collective.
I still advocate for a soft revolution and, as the world turns toward total ecosystemic collapse, see art as crucial for generating hope and connection to healing practices. My own practice continues to evolve, reflecting my beliefs through art actions, such as a ceremony to honor an urban plant with whom I had a six-year gathering relationship and workshops on sustainable seed harvesting and propagation in urban environments to benefit our local pollinators, soil irrigators, and wildlife. Like seeds growing against the Anthropocene, I refuse to give up.
Lydia Cheshewalla is an Osage artist living and working in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a BFA in painting and ceramics and has since expanded her artist explorations into the worlds of ephemeral art, community building, and creative placemaking. Her work focuses on the intersections of art, ecology, and Indigenous Ways of Knowing, blending traditional and contemporary Indigenous methodologies with modern material and process in ways that seek to challenge the Western anthropocentric perspective. Her inspiration comes from her environment and she references nature and the unknown through repeated symbol and motif.