Anita Fields (Osage/Muscogee)
In her artwork, Anita Fields comfortably helms the intersection of duality, a deeply held philosophical concept of her Osage culture, where notions of earth and sky and male and female inform many of her designs. It is a position in which Fields creates important bridges to carry forth her people’s traditions while affirming their place in the modern world, and it has gained her wide acclaim over a 40-plus year career.
A multidisciplinary artist who studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Fields primarily works in clay and textiles, often fusing the two by incorporating into her ceramics aesthetic qualities that are unique to Osage ribbon work. An early adopter among Native-American artists who create conceptual pottery installations, Fields has achieved the status of both the perpetuator of longstanding Osage practices and the originator of new contemporary modes of expression.
The seeds of Fields’ craft dyad were planted firmly in the memories of childhood mud pies made under the hot Oklahoma sun, and through the influence of her grandmother, who nurtured in Fields a reverence for the significance of Osage clothing worn for cultural gatherings. For Fields, clothing is a link to family and community. She views her textile work as an assertion of the strength of Native women, and she sees in it the love and spirituality endowed generationally through her grandmother and other women in her family. Abstracted details from traditional garments sewn onto contemporary designs and expressed in clay dresses, moccasins, and purses are a means for Fields to convey Native resilience. The implementation and style of Osage ribbon work is unique, and Fields is an exemplar of the practice. Fields is also known for inventively transcribing her textile designs into her work in clay. In both mediums, Fields uses layers and writing to reference the complexities and distortions found in written histories of Indigenous cultures. Through her art, Fields aims to dispel myths and stereotypes surrounding Native people while encouraging deeper understanding of that which is common to all living things.
A Tulsa Artist Fellow since 2017, Fields recently earned a prestigious 2021 Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. In 2019-2020, her work was part of the landmark traveling exhibition, Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists. Other notable exhibitions include Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and Legacy of Generations: Pottery by American Indian Women at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Fields’ work is in permanent collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her work is part of the Oklahoma State Art Collection.
By Joel Gavin, Oklahoma Arts Council