PORT ANGELES — Cherokee artist Karen Sixkiller recently installed a large public sculpture at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.
“Ember” features a sculpted bronze Water Spider character from Cherokee legend. The bronze spider peers from a steel base over six feet tall. A red crystal sphere rests in a bronze pot on her back, representing the legendary fire she brought to the mainland.‘Ember’ was installed in June and will remain through next June as one of the new sculptures juried into the Summertide 2022 New Growth Open Air Exhibition at Port Angeles Fine Arts Center (PAFAC). The Webster’s Woods sculpture park is located at 1203 E Lauridsen Blvd. in Port Angeles and is open to visitors from dawn to dusk.
Also included in the exhibit is work by William Frick, Lucy Harvey-Smith, Bob Houser, Steve Jensen, Quinton Merida, Karen Rudd and Jude Stigler.
Sixkiller created her sculpture as a model, or test run, for an even larger one proposed to the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Okla.
“I’m so excited to share this empowering story of the small making world changing accomplishments,” Sixkiller said, “and I’m proud to share this gem of Cherokee culture with everyone.”
Working in metal is a new medium for her. Most of her previous work has been ceramic or multi-media beaded sculpture. Sixkiller’s art has been juried into the Tulsa Cherokee Art Market and several smaller exhibits in Washington state including the Elwha Heritage Center and an upcoming exhibit in the Peninsula College Longhouse.
Many of the sculptures in the Summertide installation are for sale, including “Ember,” and a portion of the sales proceeds go to the nonprofit PAFAC to support programming.
Gallery and program director Sarah Jane praised Sixkiller’s work, saying “‘Ember’ succeeds on multiple levels, combining a striking contemporary silhouette with exquisitely sculpted details and a compelling message of Indigenous wisdom, presence, and resilience.
“Upon close inspection, viewers will discover numerous thoughtful elements such as decorative cutwork in the crowning ring that allow even the smallest viewers to catch an up-close glimpse of the glowing coal in Water Spider’s basket, and a hidden opening in the spider’s body that creates a glowing red shadow when the sculpture is illuminated by midday sun.
“Both timeless and profoundly timely, ‘Ember’ offers a vital message about nature, community, and inclusion that will resonate with Indigenous and non-native viewers alike.”
Is the artist related to football player and golf philanthropist Sonny Sixkiller?
“We are actually very distantly related, literally a great-great-great-grandfather in common, but different great-great-great-grandmothers,” Karen Sixkiller said.