".the need to tell a story through fabric art and beadwork is who I am. Prideful of my heritage, I am excited to share my culture."
Tahnee is an enrolled member of the Kiowa Tribe and also of Muscogee and Seminole heritage. She heard the creation stories, actively took part in tribal dances and is inspired by her culture. "The style of my work is based on the tradition of my peoples with a contemporary twist. The combination of the two provides a specific avenue with which to showcase the expressiveness of contemporary art and the life forming traditional stories of tribal elders." She was born on July 27, 1979 into a world of art where she was surrounded by family members who provided books, regalia and heirlooms from which she learned about her culture and art. "I was taken in by the colors, and would mostly eat and listen to honky tonk music and think how I would do my own process."
Her family and community provided many opportunities that encouraged participation in her culture and exposed her to the different styles of art, music and dance. As a toddler, Tahnee began private lessons with renowned ballerina Yvonne Chouteau. Her exploration of the arts continued in music; she is an accomplished violinist. As a writer, she has contributed to Hafffenrefer's catalog of Kiowa and Comanche Cradleboards, Oklahoma Centennial Stitches and Texas Rodeo Murders, a work of Fiction. She began gaining recognition at age 9 by winning National awards that opened the door for her winning art to travel to France, Germany and China. Recognition continued throughout her high school years.
The late Mitch Mertes, art educator, influenced Tahnee's creative talents. She was granted advanced standing in college preparatory art classes, but opted from formal instruction, instead relying on her own vision and sense of the artistic process. A self-taught seamstress by age twelve, Tahnee's abilities continued to develop to where she now designs and sews competitive cultural attire, equine and pet accessories; such as the fully beaded dog sled coat featured in this brochure. Known to take her art one step beyond the usual, she enjoys the response of her audiences.
Tahnee welcomes opportunities to share her talents and to further develop her personal style in regard to design and use of traditional and non-traditional materials; beads, bone, shells, fabric, stones, coins, appliqué, brass sequins and natural materials, including smoked moose, elk, deer and buffalo hides, elk teeth and dew claws. Tahnee is always searching for new materials that she can assimilate into her designs.
The technique Tahnee employs in the beginning design process is the same layering of materials as an artist with a blank canvas would layer paint until the picture emerges. Each layer is critical to the whole as is striking a balance between detail and color. The finished product is color-bound with the past yet the design is melded with contemporary influences. Tahnee's goal is to create a new generation of Native cultural attire with an urban slant for stage plays, championship dancing, the education of non-Indians, the promotion of tribal culture, and the creation of beauty in clothing which is in and of itself a wearable piece of artwork.
Forging contemporary with traditional, straddling the two paths of the perspective of a young person of her generation and continuing to reach into her traditional heritage, seems contradictory. Indeed, it is a mix that can be viewed as reinventing native cultural identity. How this exploration will play out and where it will take this young artist is yet to be seen.
Tahnee Ahtoneharjo is a second generation artist who is working to overcome the expectations because of her name and parentage in order to establish her own style, philosophy and identity as an artist.
This exhibition at the Southern Plains Indian Museum is Tahnee Ahtoneharjo's first solo exhibition.
During the exhibition period, inquiries regarding the purchase of her work may be directed to the Oklahoma Indian Arts and Crafts Cooperative (OIACC) gift shop located in the Southern Plains Indian Museum, 405-247-3486. After the exhibition contact Tahnee at: myspace.com/tahneeahtoneharjo