Noted Cherokee artist Shan Goshorn dies

12/05/2018 04:30 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians artist Shan Goshorn holds one of her baskets. Her baskets won numerous awards and are a part of museum collections throughout the United States. She died on Dec. 1 at age 61. RYAN REDCORN/COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians artist Shan Goshorn, a basket maker, died on Dec. 1 at age 61 after a battle with cancer. COURTESY
TULSA – Cherokee artist Shan Goshorn died on Dec. 1 at age 61 after battling cancer.

Friends and fellow artists remember her as an artist who is leaving behind a lasting legacy of art. Goshorn used different media to share the challenges and achievements of Native people, including woven paper baskets, silversmithing, painting and photography. She is best known for her baskets with Cherokee designs woven with archival paper reproductions of documents, maps, treaties and photographs.

“Shan was fearless, smart, and passionate. She was not only a good artist she was a great friend. She had a beautiful smile that lit up the room, a great laugh, and she had friends wherever she went,” friend and fellow Cherokee artist Lisa Rutherford said. “She was a strong supporter of other artists. She gave me advice, encouragement and opened many doors for me and others. I have seen her talking to young girls about their art, asking questions, encouraging them to continue. Shan will be remembered not only for her artwork but also for her kind and generous heart and the impact she had on others. She deeply touched many people. I’ll miss her terribly.”

Goshorn was born on July 3, 1957, in Baltimore, and was raised there. After graduating high school, Goshorn worked at the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual in Cherokee, North Carolina. She was a citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and spent summers with her maternal grandmother on the Qualla Boundary. She attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Atlanta College of Art where she earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. In 1981, she moved to Tulsa and began her art career.

“I am saddened to hear about our friend Shan Goshorn. Her smile filled the room and her art made you learn and think. It was always wonderful working with her,” said former Cherokee Heritage Center Curator Mickel Yantz. “Shan’s legacy in the art world, and in our hearts, will live forever. My thoughts and warm wishes go to her family and friends. Thank you, Shan.”

Goshorn’s multi-media work has been exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad. Her baskets belong to prestigious collections such as the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.; Denver Art Museum; Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa; Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis; the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee; Surgut Museum of Art in Russia; and the Nordamerika Native Museum in Switzerland.

She also received numerous top honors for her basketry.

“Shan’s talent as an artist was just a small part of why everyone loved her so much. She was such a kind and inspiring soul. Her work was beautiful, thought provoking and emotionally powerful. She used her talents to bring attention to historical and contemporary issues in Indian Country,” said Cherokee historian Catherine Foreman Gray.

Goshorn mentored Angela Gonzalez of Anchorage, Alaska, in the early 1990s, who said Goshorn showed her how art can be used to express Native culture, contemporary thought, convey messages and “heal our people.” She added that Goshorn instilled in her that it was important to have knowledge of her ancestors and she was responsible for telling her people’s stories using her artistic talent.

“I loved and admired her greatly. I learned so much from being in her presence. Grace. Strength. Love. Family. Empowerment. Presence. The importance of having a sense of humor,” Gonzalez said. “May you rest in peace. My heart goes out to her family and friends, as I know they will miss her greatly.”

Goshorn leaves behind her husband Tom Pendergraft, daughter Neosha and son Loma. She also leaves behind her mother Edna Goshorn, and sisters Donna Goshorn Beck and Diane Goshorn, all of Cherokee. Her dad was the late John Goshorn. A memorial service was to be held at 2 p.m. on Dec. 29 at Gilcrease Museum.


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