Gonzales showcases interpretive Cherokee art
Cherokee artist Keli Gonzales recently opened an online store called Keladi, her Cherokee name, to sell prints, original paintings and buttons that are affordable and “accessible” after realizing how many people wanted to buy her designs. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee artist Keli Gonzales displays an original drawing titled “Anejodi” from her sketchbook. The drawing’s inspiration derives from the Cherokee sport of stickball and a story she once heard about stickball. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
This original comic drawn by Keli Gonzales is titled “Nigohilv” (Constant) and features two skeletons stuck in a never-ending conversation with the dialogue in Cherokee. COURTESY
This original painting by Keli Gonzales titled “Digvyaluyv” (Pieces) symbolizes a fragmented Cherokee culture with the hope that the “pieces” can one day be reunited. COURTESY
Cherokee artist Keli Gonzales designs buttons for sale that can be found at the Spider Gallery in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Shown are “Danawa Usdi” (Little War), left, and “Osdadv (Good). LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Keli Gonzales found joy in art as a child from watching her father and cousins draw and paint. As she grew, she developed her modernized art style using Cherokee culture.
Gonzales recently opened an online store called Keladi, her Cherokee name, to sell prints, original paintings and buttons that are affordable and “accessible” after realizing people wanted to buy her designs.
She said people who know Cherokee culture are intrigued by her drawings because they identify with it. “I think that a lot of people like to see the syllabary on stuff, and they like to own things that…(are) Cherokee-specific items.”
Gonzales incorporates Cherokee syllabary, stories, animals and sports into her art. Her drawing “Anejodi” portrays stickball players vying for a stickball in the air.
“In (the) stickball drawing, I was told that there’s a story about a guy; he cheated in stickball because he picked the ball up with his hands; and you’re not supposed to do that. And he threw the stickball really hard, and it got stuck in the sky and it became the moon. That’s like a reminder to not cheat. So in that drawing, it’s got little…moon bursts because of that story,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales said she doesn’t like to be “overt” in her drawings and uses hints of Cherokee culture to leave it open for interpretation. “I like things that don’t look like real things, if that makes sense. It’s like an interpretation of a real thing instead of copying it. I like to interpret.”
Her painting “Digvyaluyv” (Pieces) features body parts such as an arm and a leg that she said are a “comment on how fragmented our culture is” and that “hopefully one day we can unite all the pieces.”
Gonzales also has an affinity for comic-style illustrations with characters speaking in Cherokee. She does not translate the syllabary because the viewer should translate the language and learn in the process.
Her drawing “Nigohilv” (Constant) is a comic about a pair of skeletons caught in a conversation with the dialogue in the Cherokee language. To her, it represents being constant. To others, she has heard it meant the language being constant or someone not growing up being a second-language learner.
Gonzales said her style is influenced by her love of cartoons such as The Simpsons, using graphite and ink as a medium. Many of her drawings include bold lines and bright colors.
“I love colorful things because of The Simpsons or just cartoons in general. I love defined lines around things…(cartoons) influenced my style quite a bit, bright colors and bold lines,” she said.
Gonzales also draws inspiration from Cherokee artists such as Dan HorseChief, Roy Boney Jr. and Joseph Erb because their art features more “modern spins.”
“In my head I always thought of Native art as being something very specific…like dreamcatchers,” she said. “I always promised myself I would never do a Trail of Tears painting because we’re doing more now. That’s not what I want to focus on is this horrible thing that happened, and it did happen, but we made it through. We went across and finished. We’re stronger because of it. I like to show that we’re innovative and that we’re doing more and we’re doing better.”
Gonzales earned a fine arts degree from Northeastern State University and hopes to expand her art by entering more shows, attending art markets and learning more about screen-printing to start selling her designs on T-shirts.
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ. – ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ Keli Gonzales ᎠᏲᏟᏃ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎤᎵᏉᏕᎢ ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎤᎦᏙᏍᏛᎢ ᎤᏙᏓ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎾᏓᏤᎵᎢ ᏓᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏂᏑᏫᏍᎬᎢ. ᎤᏛᏏᏗᏒᏃ, ᎤᏩᏌᏊ ᎤᏬᎷᏩᏛᎲᎢ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏙᏗᎢ ᎢᏯᏛᏁᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ.
Gonzales ᎾᏞᎬᏭ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎤᏍᏚᎢᏒᎢ ᎠᏏᎳᏕᏫᏒᎢ ᎠᏓᎾᏅᎢ ᎨᎳᏗ Ꮓ ᎤᏬᏎᏗ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎬᏗ ᏚᏙᎥᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᏗᏅᏗ ᏗᏓᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ, ᎢᎬᏱᎢ ᏧᏑᏫᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎦᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏰᎵᎢ ᏗᎬᏩᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ “ᎠᎯᏓ ᏗᎬᏩᏛᏗ” ᎤᏕᎶᎰᏏ ᏚᎾᏚᎵᎲᎢ ᏧᏩᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ.
ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᏃ ᎠᏂᏏᏴᏫ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᎦᏔᎭ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏂᏍᏆᏂᎬᏓᏁᎰ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏃᏟᎬᎢ. “ᏂᎨᎵᏍᎬᏃ ᎤᏂᎪᏗ ᏴᏫ ᎤᏂᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎤᏂᎪᏩᏛᏗᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏕᎪᏪᎸᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏤᎵᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ... (ᏥᎩ) ᏣᎳᎩ-ᎤᏤᏟᏓᎭᎢ.”
Gonzales ᏓᏠᏯᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ, ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏗ, ᏅᎩ ᏗᏂᏅᏌᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏁᏦᏗ ᎥᎿ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ. ᎤᏤᎵᏃ ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ “ᎠᏁᏦᏗ” ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᎬᏁᎭ ᎠᎾᎳᏍᎦᎵᏍᎩ ᎠᎾᏁᏦᏍᎩ ᏓᎾᎵᎪᏂᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏁᏦᏗ ᎦᏃᎯᎵᏒᎢ.
“ᎥᎿᎾᏂ (ᎾᏍᎩ) ᎠᏁᏦᏗ ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ, ᎥᎩᏃᎯᏎᎸᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏏᏴᏫ ᎠᏍᎦᏯ ᎤᏂᎬᎮᏗ; ᎤᎶᏄᎮᏢᎢ ᎠᎾᏁᏦᏍᎬᎢ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎤᏬᏰᏂᏊ ᎬᏗ ᎤᏟᏔᎩᏒᎢ ᎠᏁᏦᏙᏗ: ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᏝ ᎥᏍᎩ ᎢᏯᏛᏁᏗ ᏱᎩ. ᎠᎴ ᏍᏓᏱ ᏭᏗᎾᏒᎢ ᎠᏁᏦᏙᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏗᎨᏒᎢ ᎬᏩᎬᏘ ᏫᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏅᏓ ᎤᏒᎢ ᎡᎯ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏁᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏅᏓᏗᏍᏙᏗ ᎥᏝ ᎦᎶᏄᎮᏗ ᎢᎩ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ Ꮎ ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᏥᎩ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏂᎤᏍᏗ ᎤᏍᏗᎢ...ᏅᏓ ᎤᏒᎢ ᎡᎯ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᏦᎩᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎧᏃᎮᏗ,” Gonzales Z ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ.
Gonzales Ꮓ ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎥᏝ ᏳᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ (ᎬᏂ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ) ᎥᎿ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏲᎵᏉ ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎪᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏁᏟᏙᏗ ᎢᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᎬᎢ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏛᎢ. “ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏙᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎰᏩᏭᏊ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᎡᎵᏍᏗ ᏥᎨᏐᎢ, ᎢᏳᏃ ᎬᏰᎵᏍᏗ ᏱᎩ.
ᎾᏍᎩᏯᏃ ᏯᏁᏟᏔᏂ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎰᏩ ᏱᎩ ᎠᏏᏅ ᎤᏣᏘᎾ ᏱᏮᎩᎠ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ. ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎠᏆᏁᏟᏙᏗᎢ.”
ᎾᏍᎩᎬ ᏧᏤᎵᎢ ᏧᏑᏫᏒᎢ “ᏗᎬᏯᎷᏴᎢ” (ᏗᎬᏯᎷᎨᎢ) ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᏛᎬᏁᎲᎢ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏂᏚᏍᏛᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏥᎩ ᏗᎧᏃᏱᎨ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎦᏅᏍᎨ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮓ ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ “ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗᎭ ᎤᏲᏨᎢ ᏥᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏲᎦᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ” ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᎤᏚᎩᏃ ᎬᏗ ᎠᏮᏐᎢ ᎢᎸᎯᏳᎢ ᏥᎨᏎᏍᏗ ᏌᏉᎢ ᏱᏗᎬᏩᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎨᏎᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎬᏯᎷᎨᎢ.”
Gonzales Ꮓ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏅᏌᏁᏍᎪᎢ ᎰᏩᏭᏊ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᎠᎾᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ - ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᏅᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮓ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᏴᏫ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ. ᎥᏝ Ꮓ ᏱᏓᏁᏟᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᏗᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮎ ᎠᎪᎵᏰᏍᎩ ᎠᏎ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎤᏁᏟᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎯᎵᏒᎢ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ.
ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ “ᏂᎪᎯᎸᎢ” (ᏂᎪᎯᎸᎢ) ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎾᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ ᏧᎾ ᎪᎳᎭ ᎠᎾᏟᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎬᏗ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏁᎵᏍᎬᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎦᏛᎬᎢ ᏂᎪᎯᎸᎢ. ᎠᏂᏐᎢᏃ ᎨᏒ, ᎤᏛᎦᏅᏃ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᎦᏛᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᏂᎪᎯᎸᎢ ᏂᎬᏩᏍᏗᏗᏒᎢ ᎠᎴᏱᎩ ᎩᎶ ᎥᏝ ᎤᏛᏒᎢ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᏔᎵᏁᏃ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ.
Gonzales Ꮓ ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏚᎵᏉᏛᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎾᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ The Simpsons, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎧᏅᎦᎵ ᎠᎴ ᎦᏁᎯ ᏗᏙᏪᎵᏍᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ ᏩᎦᏲᏢᎢ. ᎤᎪᏗᏃ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᏅᎢ ᏂᏙᏳᏍᏗ ᏧᎵᏏᎩ ᏓᏍᏅᏅᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏍᎪᏍᏗ ᏚᎵᏑᏫᏒᎢ.
“ᏓᎩᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᏧᎵᏑᏫᏓᎭ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏍᏗ ᏥᎩ The Simpsons ᎠᎴᏱᎩ ᎠᎾᏗᏁᎵᏍᎩᏭ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏗᎢ. ᏓᎩᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏊ ᏧᎵᏍᏓᏅᏂ ᏕᎦᏕᏱᏍᏛᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ... (ᎠᎾᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ) ᏙᏧᏓᎴᏅᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏗᏆᏟᎶᏍᏙᏗᎢ, ᏧᏍᎪᏍᏗ ᏧᎵᏑᏣᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏧᎵᏏᎩ ᏧᎵᏍᏔᏅᏂ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
Gonzales ᏃᏍᏊ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᏍᎬᎢ ᏚᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎾᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏍᏗ Dan HorseChief, Roy Boney Jr. ᎠᎴ Joseph Erb ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᎬᏁᎰᎢ “ᎪᎯᏴᎢ ᏥᎩ ᏥᏄᏍᏗᏓᏂ.”
ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᎦᏓᏅᏖᏍᎬᎢ ᏂᎪᎯᎸᎢ ᏅᏁᎯᏯᎢ ᏗᎾᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎩ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎤᏤᏟᏓ... ᎾᏍᎩ ᏳᏍᏗ ᎥᏍᎩᏓᏍᎬᎢᏗᎦᏂᏱᏍᎩ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ ᏂᎪᎯᎸᏃ ᏂᏥᏪᏍᎪᎢ ᎥᏝ ᎢᎸᎯᏳᎢ ᏗᎨᏥᎢᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᏅᏃᎯ ᏚᎾᏠᎯᎢ ᎠᏑᏫᏒᎢ ᎤᎪᏙᏃ ᎾᏊ. ᎥᏝᏃ ᏯᏆᏚᎵᎰᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏆᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏄᏲᎢᏳᎢ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᏅᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ, ᎣᎩᎦᏛᎴᏒᎢ. ᏙᎩᎾᏗᏫᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎣᎩᏍᏆᏛᎢ. ᎣᎦᏟᏂᎩᏓ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᎬᏩᎵᏍᏔᏅ. ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏙᎢᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᎢᏯᏋᏁᏗᎢ ᎢᏤᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎪᏙᎢ ᏃᏣᏛᏁᎭ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏤᏝ ᏃᏣᏛᏁᎭ.”
Gonzales Z ᎤᏁᏎᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏚᏍᏆᏛᎢ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎤᏁᏎᎢ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎤᏴᏢᎢᎧᎸᎬᎢ ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᎬᎢ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏚᎩ ᎤᏌᏐᎢ ᎤᏁᏉᎢᏍᏗᎢ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎲᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏖᎳᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᏗᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎲᏍᎩ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᏓᏅᏁᎲᎢ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏚᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ, ᎤᏖᎳᏗᏍᏗᎢ ᏗᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎲᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏅᏔᏅᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎤᎪᏗ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᎠᏱᏙᎳᏛᎢ-ᏓᏂᎴᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎴᏅᏗᎢ ᏕᎦᎾᏕᏴᎢ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏗᎿᏬᎢ.
– Translated by David Crawler