[title text=”Heidi BigKnife, Shawnee” style=”bold_center”]

See Heidi BigKnife’s work here.

Artist’s Statement:

“Conceptualizing and creating artwork connects me to many things – the past and a connection to ancestors; self-identity; beauty and simplicity; my voice – a voice to speak about these connections and to address society at large.

In all my work I enjoy exploring the qualities that metal can offer both conceptually and aesthetically. Metal is an excellent conductor and I feel that this extends to conducting ideas through its markings and scars – a graphic record of ‘history’. Reticulation, stamping, raising, casting, and patination all add to the inherent beauty of the metal surface.

My most recent series is a running commentary on the politics of this new century – a way for me to express outrage, pose questions, and convey concerns about what is going on in the United States and how it affects Americans and the world. By

combining humor, serious subject matter and text I want to provoke and encourage a reaction to issues that I feel demand not only a rational response but also a response from the heart. It is my belief that our lives, which include current events, shape us mentally, spiritually and physically. My process in this series is to express a concept in text, fabric, stones and imagery and then enclose these materials in small frames. As the viewer comes in closer to see the details of each piece s/he becomes involved in the process of interpretation.

The “Genetic Memory” series has grown out of the connections I feel with the history of the Shawnee and my family. I use copper in the series to reference the mound builder cultures and the abundance of copper in the Great Lakes area – the cultures and geography related historically to the Shawnee. The horsehair signifies both the importance of the horse to the Shawnee and human hair – hair that carries our DNA, our genetic memory. I describe the figurative shapes I use in this series as “dresses” – having a feminine connotation, but others see them as “tunics” – masculine representations.

I am also inspired by language, history, texture, kinetics, beauty, and nature. I often embellish my pieces with freshwater pearls and other natural stones and beads such as turquoise, shell, and moonstone – materials that speak to me of earth and water. These ideas guide me in creating jewelry that I hope is entirely unique.”


  • Personal •

Born: Enid, Oklahoma

Tribe: Shawnee


  • Education •

1993-1994: MFA Program, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL.  Concentration in photographic processes including color photography, videography, and digital imaging.

1992 and 1993: Associate of Fine Arts Degrees in two and three-dimensional design, Institute of American Indian Arts, (IAIA), Santa Fe, NM.  Focus on photography, metal-smithing, and videography.

1990: BA Studio Art, Beloit College, Beloit, WI.  Focus on photography, art history, and women’s studies.


  • Exhibiting Artist, Jewelry •

2009 -’12: Four Winds Gallery, Pittsburg, PA

2008-’12: Shiprock Trading Post, Santa Fe, NM

2009 -’11: Heard Museum gift shop, Phoenix, AZ

2011: home & away gallery, Kennebunkport, ME

2005-’10: Museum of Contemporary Native Arts gift shop, Sante Fe, NM

2007: Epcot Center, Oklahoma Pavilion, Orlando, FL

2007: “The Earring Show” , Velvet da Vinci, San Francisco, CA

2007: “Art From Indian Territory”, year long group exhibit shown throughout Oklahoma

2005-’07: Museum of Indian Arts and Culture gift shop, Santa Fe, NM

2005: “Shaking the Tree”, two person exhibit at IAIA Museum, Santa Fe, NM

2003-’05: Cherry Street Farmer’s Market, Tulsa, OK

2004: Museum of the Fur Trade, Chadron, NE

2001-02: Sandstone Gallery, Guthrie, OK

2000: Wildlife Art Museum, Jackson, WY

1999: Painted Desert Gallery, Salinas, CA

1998: Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK

1998: Wheelwright Museum trading post, Santa Fe, NM


  • Exhibiting Artist, Mixed Media Work •

2010: Bacone College, Muskogee, OK

2008: Lovett’s Gallery, Tulsa, OK

2007: “Current Realities a Dialog With The People”,  Oklahoma City & Tulsa, OK

2006: “La Voce Politica”, IAO Gallery, Oklahoma City, OK

2004: “Untitled”, solo show – The Studio Gallery, Hayes, KS

2003-2006: “Anti-War Medals”, Velvet Da Vinci, San Francisco, CA, England, Norway,  Spain

2002: Fiberworks, Oklahoma City, OK

2001: Leslie Powell Gallery, Lawton, OK

1998: “Contemporary Art 1998”, Fuller Lodge Art Center and Gallery, Los Alamos, NM

1997:  “State of the Nations”, Plan B, Santa Fe, NM

1996: Site 21/21, Albuquerque, NM

1993: American Indian Contemporary Arts Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1993: “Into the Forefront: American Indian Art in the Twentieth Century”, Denver Art Museum



Heidi BigKnife p2

  • Community and Professional Activities •

1995-present: Business owner: BigKnife Designs

2009: Committee chair, Keep Turner Park Neighborhood Tidy committee

2001: Volunteer Visiting Artist, Jackson Elementary, Tulsa, OK

1997: Visiting Artist, IAIA Campus, Santa Fe, NM

1996-1997: “Artist-at-Large” member, Arts Commission for the City of Tulsa

1995-1997: Member, Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission, Tulsa, OK

1995-1997: Steering committee member, Tulsa Indian Art Festival

1996: Panelist for ATLATL conference “Do We Really Have No Word for Art?” Tulsa

1993: Demonstrator, mixed-media photography, IAIA Museum, Santa Fe, NM

1993: Visiting Artist presentation at Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO


  • Published Work •

2010: Oklahoma Indian Country Guide (p6)

2010: Pendant from “Remembering” series republished in the book Pendants, published by Lark Books

2010: Native Peoples magazine “Galleries” section, September/October issue (p56)

2008: Pendant from the “Remembering” series selected for the book 500 Pendants & Lockets

2007: Two pairs of earrings selected for the book 500 Earrings, published by Lark Books

2005: Tulsa Business Journal, Volume 15, Number 8

2004: Tulsa People magazine “Cool Stuff Made in Tulsa” section, December issue

2004: “Medal of Dishonor” reviewed in Metalsmith magazine, Summer 2004 (p49)

1996: Writer for the Discovery section of Indian Artist magazine, Winter Issue

1994: Cyanotype triptych from “Bloodlines or Belief Systems” series published in the April issue of El Palacio, the magazine of the Museum of New Mexico


  • Grants & Awards •

2011: Third Place Jewelry, Cherokee Casino Indian Market

2011: Second Place pin & pendants category, Santa Fe Indian Market

2008: Second Place 3-D category, Cahokia Mounds Indian Art Show

2005: Honorable Mention, Jewelry, Heard Museum Indian Market

2003: Framing Grant, Oklahoma Visual Artists Coalition

2002: Slide Grant, Oklahoma Visual Artists Coalition

2001: Slide Grant, Oklahoma Visual Artists Coalition

2000: Third Place Jewelry/Metalsmithing, Eiteljorg Museum Indian Market

2000: Second Place poetry, Indian Art Northwest, Portland, Oregon

1998: Honorable Mention Contemporary Jewelry, Eiteljorg Museum Indian Market

1993-1994: Fellow, University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana

1993: Helen Hardin Memorial Scholarship


  • Collections •

Institute of American Indian Arts Museum


  • Professional Organizations •

1996-2008: Member, Oklahoma Guild of Metalsmiths

2004- 2009: Member, Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition

  • Goals •

Present the public with alternatives to stereotypes about American Indians, continue to mature as an artist, and get people to think as I show my work far and wide.