Nathan Hart – Pecan Vase b. September 5, 1961, Marion, Kansas Burls are a favorite material for Cheyenne artist Nathan Hart. These areas of knotty growth are characterized by interlocking grain patterns or colors. Trees produce burls in response to stress: an injury, virus, fungus or insect attack. Beauty is often born of hardship. When a burl is cut and polished, unique abstract patterns and designs not normally found in the wood are revealed. Burl wood can sometimes be difficult to work with because the grain is twisted and interlocked, lending itself to unpredictable chipping. Interlocking grains also produce extreme density, making them resistant to splitting. This quality has long made burls a top choice for bowls and wooden tools. Hart is a self-taught wood artist, who bought his first lathe in 1983, shortly after graduating from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. In 1989, while riding a horse, Hart planted a ceremonial spear to designate the site for the Meeting Place and Indian Nations Flag Plaza in the State Capitol complex. His father, Chief Lawrence Hart, one of the principal chiefs of the Cheyenne tribe, conducted a traditional Cheyenne blessing of the site. After a successful career in finance and investment, Hart turned to art full time in 2001. Hart’s wife, Melanie Stuckey, has long been a judicial assistant for the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Hart’s pieces have earned several awards, including first place at the Santa Fe Indian Market and Best of Division at the Heard Museum Guild and Indian Fair and Market. His work was highlighted in a 2006 exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and featured in an exhibit organized by the American Indian Cultural Center. He was also included in the Inaugural Exhibition of the Oklahoma State Art Collection at the State Capitol to celebrate the Centennial in 2007. Additional pieces by Hart appear on pages 180 and 181. All were purchased for the Oklahoma Judicial Center Collection.
Trisha Eagle – Cherokee Hair Comb b. January 4, 1958, Tulsa, Oklahoma Cherokee artist Trisha Eagle carved this traditional Cherokee hair comb from Mankiller pearl shell. In 1987, the Cherokee Legislature renamed the native mussel shellfish found in lakes and rivers of eastern Oklahoma in honor of Wilma Mankiller, the first woman elected Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Mankiller also served as the first woman deputy chief and became principal chief in 1985 when Chief Ross Swimmer resigned. Cherokee voters elected Mankiller as chief in 1987 and again in 1991. She served as principal chief until 1995. Her tenure in office was marked by community-development projects including tribal businesses and infrastructure improvements. Mankiller wrote in her autobiography that she wanted to be remembered “for emphasizing the fact that we have indigenous solutions to our problems.”
Mel Cornshucker – Vase b. 1951, Jay, Oklahoma Mel Cornshucker had planned to be a tribal lawyer, then a ceramics class changed the direction of his life. Working with clay appealed to him so much that he quit school and went to Silver Dollar City to be potter. A member of the Cherokee Tribe, Cornshucker has always been surrounded by art. His grandfather, Lincoln Trotting Wolf, wove rugs until he was 95 years old. His other grandfather was a stonemason and his father was a silversmith. Cornshucker teaches pottery classes for both children and adults and says that teaching sparks his creative energy, making him a better artist. He is currently involved in a cultural exchange program with artists from South Africa, sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation. The goal is to help the indigenous people there promote their arts and crafts internationally. His work has been shown at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Gilcrease Museum and featured in the Coldwater Creek catalogue. He has participated in shows in New York, Seattle, Indianapolis, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.