Hello and welcome to the 27th interview for my interview blog 3 Art Questions With Jackson! This time I interviewed amazingly talented artist and curator Dyani White Hawk Polk. I have always liked Dyani's art in person and online and she is the first artist I've asked about the global pandemic. I thought her answers were really interesting and I think you will too. (David Ellis took the above picture for the Walker Art Center)
Jackson: What inspired you to become an artist? Did you have a specific experience?
Dyani: I've been making things, drawing, and creating since I was little. Making and creating has always been my favorite thing to do! But I didn't always understand that this meant I was an artist. My mom actually used to tell me quite frequently as a teen and young adult, "Dyani, you're an artist, and one day you'll believe me." It wasn't until I sold my first painting as an undergrad that I really started to believe her and truly understand that making art was more than something I like to do, but something I was, something I am.
Jackson: Has the global pandemic impacted how you make art? Has it affected your shows? I had some things postponed.
Dyani: YES! The pandemic has prevented me from being in the studio. I had a show in New York City the first week of March. By the time I got home the pandemic was really starting to hit the States and we were all adjusting to the idea that we were going to have to start isolating ourselves. I came home, wrapped up a few things for my exhibition currently up at the Plains Art Museum and then started gathering supplies and getting ready to stay at home.
I live with my mother and her husband who are both in their late 60s and have pre-existing medical conditions that place them in the high risk category. Because of this our entire family has had to practice extreme caution and focus on maintaining the health of everyone in our home. I have not worked in the studio since the second week of March! We have had to focus on keeping our folks safe and at home, which means me and my husband have taken on all of the errands that need to be done outside the home as well as sanitizing all groceries and supplies that come into our home. In addition to this, we were faced with the transition to distance-learning for our first grader and senior in high school. Then, our lease ended in May, which means we also had to move! Finding a new home, packing and moving our multi-generational home became an all encompassing effort for a few months.
I have had to maintain a lot of administrative style work from home, on the computer. Unfortunately, the only artwork I have made since the pandemic hit was finishing a pair of moccasins that were already 75% done and making a necklace for my mom for Mother's Day. Now that we are moved and slowly settling into our new home I will be working on finding a way to start getting back into the studio slowly and safely.
As for shows, yes, it has. As I mentioned, I have a solo show up at the Plains Art Museum right now. This show was supposed to open in March but the museum just recently reopened with social distancing practices in place. I'm not sure how many people will get to see the exhibition, especially considering how much travelling is still a risk. It is up through October 3rd though so hopefully people will still have an opportunity to experience the show!
I had a residency that was scheduled for April that had to be postponed until sometime in the future when things of that sort can begin again. I had an important speaking opportunity at a conference cancelled, as well as a couple of museum acquisitions of my work that had to be cancelled due to budget freezes. I am grateful though that I still have a few exhibition opportunities scheduled far enough into the future that they are still scheduled to proceed as originally planned. A number of acquisitions have still gone through despite the pandemic as well.
Jackson: If you could meet any artist living or dead, who would it be and why?
Dyani: This is a tough question! There are so many artists I'd love to speak to, both living and dead. SO many!
I thought about this question for awhile last night and got excited about the various people I'd love to talk shop and life with. But what I landed on is this. I would like to speak to someone in the past, from within my family lineage that was an accomplished beadwork or quillwork artist. I don't have any immediate family members to turn to in this way. But I am certain there would have been someone in the past. Whomever that woman is, I'd love to visit with her!