Though she hails from South Dakota, artist and jeweler Mikayla Patton (Lakota) says she loves Santa Fe and can't wait to get back after the summer. A graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts' studio art program with a focus in printmaking, Patton also crafts jewelry and paints. At a special one day pop-up at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art this Friday August 16 (1 pm-7 pm. Free. 108 Cathedral Place, 983-8900), Patton will show her jewelry and smaller prints, and that's not even counting exhibits at Chiaroscuro Gallery (558 Canyone Road, 992-0711) and the IM:Edge event during Indian Market.
How did you zero in on printmaking?
I went through photography in high school, and that only lasted a year and a half. Then, of course, I was encouraged to do more art and I was introduced to painting. I was determined that I was going to be a painter. And then I was only in school [at IAIA] for a year, and I couldn't go back because I couldn't pay for it, so I took some time off of school trying to pay for school, and during that time I was introduced to an artist back home who was a printmaker. He took me under his wing; mostly monotypes, but he really introduced me to the hard work it takes to be an artist—the business side, all of it. And it really opened my eyes, so when I got back into school, I was still trying to go toward painting, but ultimately, in my last couple years, printmaking stood out to me more, and I was able to be more … I felt more free in it rather than painting. In painting you're encouraged to do more figurative work, which is something that's hard for me—not that I can't do, but it was hard mentally. So I went back to printmaking and just kept going. It just made more sense to me, and I was able to continue and continue and continue.
Do you have goals for your pieces, or are they the organic culmination of experimentation?
They're very organic, and that's what I love about them—that I never know what they're going to be. It's a little bit of a mystery. I try to make sure I don't go too far. I always step back and look at it, and if it looks like there's a lot going on, I'll usually stop. And that can be right away. In painting, you can continually cover and cover, but printmaking you can only go so far, usually one or two or three runs is enough, and I can move on.
Can you talk about some of the symbols and motifs you use in your work?
These past few months, I got obsessed with using the shape of elk teeth. Traditionally, in a lot of plains or northern tribes, the women adorned their dresses with elk teeth. It was an interesting design, but the meaning behind it has a lot to do with wealth. Obviously, you have a really strong family because you’re able to completely adorn your dress with elk teeth; do you know how many animals you’d have to kill that get that many teeth? It was really interesting thinking about all of that wealth, and I used it, but I was thinking of it like personal wealth, like me being wealthy within myself—it’s not having money, it’s being OK, if that makes sense. It’s something I kind of got obsessed with, and I repeated that pattern over and over. It also translates to women in general: We relied on men to provide for us, but a lot of that doesn’t happen anymore. We’re providing for ourselves, there’s strength within that, so I really liked using that.