Boydston 1 of 2 Americans invited to Monte Carlo art show
Stanley Boydston’s “Rincon Low Tide” piece, part of a series, received permission for display in the square of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. COURTESY
Stanley Boydston describes this piece: “We are 75 percent water as infants: a mother on the left and one child: a mother who is at the very beginning of conception and wondering, wondering about the impending evolution of her life and envisioning her baby’s evolution over the next nine months, existing as one yet distinct ... a labor of love, yet a work that feels like a culmination in meaning and significance of all the paintings of my “Rincon, Low Tide,” (surf) series that I’ve been working on for the last year.” COURTESY
Cherokee artist Stanley Boydston stands outside the Piazza San Marco Venezia in Venice, Italy. COURTESY
The ocean is the theme of Cherokee artist Stanley Boydston’s works. COURTESY
OJAI, Calif. – Many artists dreams of having their works put under the spotlight of a big exhibition for public perusal, and one Cherokee Nation citizen had that dream realized when his pieces were included in European exhibits.
Stanley Boydston, 60, was one of two Americans included in the inaugural Biennale of Contemporary Sacred Art exhibit in Monte Carlo, Monaco, where he made a sale. That was followed by an invitation from Italian art critic Giorgio Grassio for Boydston to create a painting and display his work for an hour at the Biennale de Venezia. The “situational installation” was shown at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy.
“The (Monte Carlo) show had big-name people like Damien Hirst and Banksy – they get millions of dollars for their art works,” Boydston said. “Going there and teeing up with the big boys was huge. When the show got there, (Grassio) saw my work and invited me to the Venice biennale, which has been going on for decades and is the biggest art fair in the world. It just kind of takes over all of Venice. I was beside myself, in tears, and excited to be invited.”
Boydston’s Cherokee heritage was not given prominence or highlighted with his works, but the artist directly credits his Cherokee roots for his artistic fascination with water. The ocean is the focus of his pieces – and was appropriate for an exhibition in Venice.
“Venice has a lot to do with water,” Boydston said. “The streets get flooded during high tide. I’ve been painting low tide at the same time over the years. It was significant that I did my (artistic) installation in front of St. Mark’s Basilica. We Cherokee traditionally have a strong connection with water. Our ancestors would take every opportunity to walk through rivers to get where they were going: Even If you are on a dry path to the house, if you see water – you will then decide to carry yourself through it – a river, lake or creek to get there. It slows down the walk. It reflects your image with what is above you, allowing you to be wet and fused with nature and to become one – visually and “tactile” – with the earth; rebirth at every opportunity.”
Hence, his situational installation, from his “Rincon Low Tide” series, reflected the famous and tenuous relationship between Venice and its waters.
“Venice is also in danger of sinking and gets flooded on almost every high tide,” Boydston said. “My work of ‘Rincon Low Tide’ was a conduit between a Byzantine blessing of Christ on the front of St. Mark’s Basilica at St Mark’s Piazza in Venice and the Earth, in need of healing and protection from rising waters.”
Venetian authorities allowed the erection of the “site-specific” work before the basilica in St. Mark’s Square for an hour on Oct. 14, and it remains on display at the Pallazzo Zenobio until Oct. 31. The Monte Carlo exhibit was Sept. 30-Oct. 1.
“I put my painting down, and the lines in the ocean became the rays of Christ giving a blessing there,” Boydston said.
Drawn to art his entire life, Boydston – a Muskogee, Oklahoma, native – looked up his Cherokee heritage about 10 years ago. He claims lineage from Judge Franklin Faulkner, whose 19th century cabin is now a visitor information center on Sallisaw’s East Cherokee Street. Faulkner was a scout and teamster who survived the Cherokees’ forced removal. Boydston’s father was Max Boydston, a 1954 all-American tight end for the University of Oklahoma, and his mother is Janey Boydston, mayor of Muskogee.
During the 1980s, he resided for a decade in Madrid, but has called California home for the past 20 years.
“I want people to know how proud I am to be a Cherokee,” he said. “It is one of the most important things in my life. To have that knowledge and be proud – there is not a day that goes by that it doesn’t fill me with a source of confidence. To take my art to Europe as a Cherokee, and to walk as a Cherokee through the streets of Venice with my art is my proudest achievement as an artist.”