Yatika Starr Fields, “Connecting Roads from Past to Present,” 2013

Students in Dr. Siddons’ “Art Since 1960” class had the chance this spring to write about a work of art from the OSUMA collection, featured in the exhibition, “Sharing a Journey.” The assignment entailed looking at a work of art for at least 45 minutes, and to write about their close-looking experience, followed by interpretation. Savannah Barrington wrote about Yatika Starr Fields’ mural, Connecting Roads from Past to Present. The following text is excerpted from her paper.

Yatika Starr Fields’ work isn’t what one would typically think of in the genre of Native art. He has a much more modern and street-like style present in the methods that were used to create this painting. His work in general follows this more current and interesting style.

Yatika Starr Fields (Cherokee, Creek, and Osage, b. 1980). "Connecting Roads from Past to Present," 2013. Acrylic, spray paint, gold leaf, 66 x 144 inches. Museum commission, gift of Ann Holmes Parker, 2013.005.001.

Yatika Starr Fields (Cherokee, Creek, and Osage, b. 1980). “Connecting Roads from Past to Present,” 2013. Acrylic, spray paint, gold leaf, 66 x 144 inches. Museum commission, gift of Ann Holmes Parker, 2013.005.001.

In this particular piece, he contrasts natural colors with bright fluorescent shades of hot pink, electric blue, and lemon yellow. This use of such contradicting colors relates to the idea about blending the past and the present that is suggested in the title. The whole piece seemingly embodies the idea of blending. There is potential that the artist created this work of art to reflect his own heritage and race.

Within the unique and abstract shapes in the painting there are also some iconic symbols that stand out. After observing the painting the viewer may notice the paint strokes and color formations that indicate white feather headdresses. There are three of these said “headdresses” which could each represent one of the three tribes that Starr Fields is part of.

Fields, "Connecting Roads from Past to Present," installation view.

Fields, “Connecting Roads from Past to Present,” installation view.

Another interesting use of symbolism that the artist creates is the small groupings of dots. The way that the dots are painted and colored creates an image that looks like an intentional grouping that could be interpreted to signify a tribe of people. Then there are even more discrete shapes that resemble arrows being shot across the piece and the flower-like paint strokes that seem to swirl in the lines of color.

Fields’ painting could be looked at as a representation of all of this blending that has created the racial makeup of today’s population. His use of layering depicts the fact that many peoples have complicated layers of heritage, and it is hard to pin down a person’s specific origin.

Fields, "Connecting Roads from Past to Present," installation view.

Fields, “Connecting Roads from Past to Present,” installation view.

Yatika Starr Fields created a magnificent piece that instantly draws the viewer in. He addresses the idea of a cultural blending in America in a very modern and unique way while still using Native American symbolism. The mixed media painting, Connecting Roads from Past to Present, is an interesting piece because it takes time to see and dissect what the artist’s message is. The abstract style leaves the viewers to infer what Fields’ symbols were meant to depict. The work is truly a piece that allows the viewer to experience the blending of the past and the present.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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