Kayeri Akweks is best known for her layering effects of abstract and realistic Native American portraits drawn with symbols, plants, and animals. Her works include large multi-color drawings on paper and smaller black and white drypoint prints. Focused on the spiritual interactions of humans with the land for health, she reminds all peoples of our connection to the multiple influences of Nature. A transcendental artist, her work brings all peoples into immediate contact by acknowledging the First Nations of the North American continent and recognizing principles about caring for our environments. Akweks lives in the Mohawk Valley area of Springfield, Oregon. She holds an MFA from Goddard College, Port Townsend, Washington. She is enrolled as Upper Mohawk at the Six Nations Reserve, Ohsweken, Ontario.
Short Artist Statement
I recognize that there are two cores of identity within me and at their foundation, each has a direct internal attachment to and belief in the land as a constant spiritual force. Indigenous people know things – the land and its transcendence give authentic directions about how to live. The land offers instructions for healing. My current work includes large multi-color drawings and smaller black and white drypoint prints. The drawing and printmaking contents are comprised of Native portraits and Native dancers, Native symbols used primarily within an Eastern Woodlands context, universal symbols, and abstractions of nature made through watercolor interactions, graphite, and minerals. My work speaks about healing and transcendence by allowing ourselves to access love and care for the health of our lands. It often shows the connection to my Ontario and Oregon homelands through indigenous animals and plants. During our time on earth, we are instructed to genuinely love, care for and offer compassion towards one another. When our hearts are broken, we need to work to become whole again. Healing is the strongest interest of my artmaking. My motivations include finding the joy of forms, lines, colors; exploring interactions of materials and topics; being present for the daily miracles; and learning and evolving throughout my life.
Long Artist Statement
My inquiry, as a Native artist, is to discover what, when, where, and how, and then possibly why, art can be healing – first to myself, then to communities with whom I interact through art, then to the caring for and healing of our great Mother Earth. My work is about enhancing Life.
I know numerous Native artists who heal themselves and others through their artmaking and artwork. I have witnessed Native artists who heal families and communities through collaborative artwork and artmaking. I hope to offer healing, acknowledgment, and legacy to the numerous Native activists who act in courage to protect Mother Earth.
I want to know how healing processes work and what types of art they create. It appears to me to be an internal connection to Creation/Source. Is it being in the artmaking flow that brings mental, emotional, physical and spiritual resolutions over time? Additionally, it seems that the earth is continuously creative and continuously working to heal all of Her occupants. How does the Earth manifest creativity and healing within each and every moment? How can I create through connecting to these processes?
I make large mixed-media drawings on 100% rag paper that combine graphite, watercolor, Prismacolor, and minerals. I also create portraits (that use many of the same principles of the large drawings) using drypoint printmaking in black and white.
I work to stay open to intuitive Creation/Source directions throughout each image, adding or subtracting internal icons, plants and animals. This includes the placement of that section within the composition. I am working to remain open and practice being out of judgment about my making process – basically acting as a conduit with heart and mind, to get out of my own way by handing the entire process over to Creation/Source. A wide range of cultural and environmental experiences and principles inspire my drawing and printmaking processes.
I draw upon Haudenosaunee and Lakota environmental values; historical, archetypal, and personal symbols; and transitional life moments. I research traditional and contemporary North American Native art in its many forms. My current work is about collecting iconic Native Woodlands cultural shapes, healing plants outlines, shells, symbols, human and animal figures, old birch bark designs, beadwork patterns – and then restating them into integrated, full of movement, contemporary (hopefully healing) art. I also want the physical contents of my artwork to be sustainable, so I work to use art materials that will not harm the environment. This is an evolving commitment.
How the Work Serves the Inquiry
I often use iconic shapes that are both worldwide and indigenous to North America. I prefer Northeastern Woodlands shapes. I study color for its healing properties. I write out thoughts, memories, insights as a way to make room for greater freedom and honesty of my voice. I work to expand my abilities and increase energy levels of creative flow. I notice the things, places, and people that I love.
I have come to recognize that the work is about transcendence – connections between land and spirit that take one to healing. In my work, each element is a portal that the viewer may use to be able to go into the work. I am showing connections between the human to an animal, plants, winds, and sky, etc. as energy that holds healing. I am embodying the acknowledgment of gratitude and abundance.
The icons surrounding the human figures are land and spirit-based images, regardless if they are realistic or not. I am finding that the energy placed into the drawings throughout all making processes can be further expanded through multiple transcendent and healing processes – clearing the light within myself.
In my experience, I’ve consistently found that all of Nature communicates concerning their healing properties, that lying directly next to the earth will comfort you and send love into your pain, that there is strengthening power in expressing gratitude, that self-forgiveness and forgiveness of others are about cleaning one’s own soul. Lately, I have added these insights: that love can and does heal anything and everything, that connecting to Creation/Source daily makes more love, clarity, and cleans the earth – and somehow helps ancestors who in turn are more available to assist. My research is often focused on past and current Native environmental activism for the love of Mother Earth.
I am influenced by many of the Haudenosaunee artists listed in Kwah I:ken Tsi IROQUOIS curated by Ryan Rice, by the Native Woodlands School of Seven Artists, by the New Zealand Maori and NW Coastal Salish artists – especially how they embrace community and support towards each other, by the Woodlands bead workers in both the raised and flat styles, and by a huge host of Native artists that I research constantly and interact with daily via social media.
In particular, I am indebted to the work and perspectives of many individuals, including Joe Feddersen’s prints and glasswork; Rick Bartow’s tremendous honesty; Frank LaPena’s spirit and ceremony paintings; Emmi Whitehorse’s and James Lavadour’s connection to the land; Christi Belcourt’s floral paintings, beadwork, and her tremendous activist work; and Travis Shilling’s oil paintings about everyday Native experiences that include the heartbreak and the magic.