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Sana Sana Courtesy of the Artist
Sana Sana Courtesy of the Artist

Culture: Art Action

Desert Companion

Native artivists draw on a long tradition of speaking truth to power. For KNPR’s Native Nevada podcast, a few of them talked about the messages of their predecessors and their own work

Jean LaMarr

Jean La Marr

Courtesy of Nevada Art Museum

Jean LaMarr told the Nevada Appeal in 2003, “The concerns of my life manifest in my art, which is about racism, stereotypes, wars, and the destruction of Mother Earth.” Great Basin Native Artists founder and curator Melissa Melero-Moose told KNPR about seeing LaMarr’s work when she was a student at the Institute of American Indian Art in the early ’90s: “My mind exploded. … She has a great story to tell about activism and going to school at (UC) Berkeley in the ’70s. I mean, she’s telling the story of women being exploited so badly over the years and stereotypes and just the sexism that was involved in not just females in history, but specifically Indigenous females. So, it spoke directly to me.”

Sana Sana

Reno-based artivist Sana Sana works in many different media — drawing, painting, poetry, music — but always with a message. Here’s how he described it for Native Nevada: “What I’m attempting to do with my art is to have these conversations with people and have people feel what I feel, or feel what my community feels, or even feel things that maybe they weren’t aware that they were feeling as well. … I want to draw people back into a space to where we can understand our connection and our relationships to the earth, to the water, to the air, and to ourselves and each other.”

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Fawn DouglasFawn Douglas

Photo by Christopher Smith

“I like my art to project something, you know, to be able to change a mind and to educate those that see it on subjects they weren’t even aware of,” says Fawn Douglas, a Las Vegas-based artist, activist, and educator. “I’ve taken some old T-shirts from different protests … and repurposed them and given them more meaning … I wanted to be able to keep those shirts, but I also wanted to be able to reuse something, too. And so with that, it has that message of not creating more waste and also telling the story of what was going on within those traditional lands.”

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