Artist from the Indian nation of Catawba begins residency at USC Lancaster
ROCK HILL, SC
Catawba artist Alex Obsorn has creativity in his veins.
The Catawba Indian Nation, the only federally recognized Native American tribe in South Carolina, is renowned for its pottery. Osborn has lived on the Rock Hill, SC, Reservation all his life, descending from a tribe where art is a way of life – where drumming and dancing are a tradition. Her grandmother was a potter by trade.
Osborn wants to use his art to present the history of the Catawba Nation – in a way that would not have been possible in the years of his ancestors.
Until the end of August, Osborn, 29, is the contemporary artist in residence at the Center for Native American Studies at the University of South Carolina. Through live broadcasts and Zoom, he will give lectures and interviews, and allow viewers to watch him while he works. At the end of his residency, the work he creates will be exhibited in an exhibition at the Native American Studies Center.
Osborn’s presentations will cover traditional Catawba art forms, the artistic mediums he works with, identity through art, cultural documentation, and contemporary art in Catawba and Native American culture.
Photographer and digital artist, Osborn uses elements of the Catawba language, drawings and traditional artwork to showcase his heritage in a modern light.
His ancestors once created pots to carry water or store grain. Catawba pottery has now evolved into a renowned art form.
By continuing to create pottery, the Catawbas are preserving their culture, Osborn says. But he finds his own way to tell Catawba’s story.
“I am not a potter. I use the skills I have to create art that makes me happy, ”he said. “I feel and hope that the contemporary nature of my art respects the nature of my ancestors and the hearts of my ancestors. I hope I add to this story – the same story of people who have been making pottery for thousands of years. It is a different turn of artistic creation that could not be achieved in any other period. ”
While Osborn hopes his speeches educate viewers, he believes his art will be the best teacher.
“I want people to understand that we are here, that we also do art now, it is relevant to our experiences today. It doesn’t just have to be a 700 year old pot, ”he said. “I want to help preserve my culture so that younger people can also be interested in seeing, which can then lead to the story of my people who have survived for so long.”
And through his art, he can talk about elements of Catawba’s history that are often difficult to discuss.
“We’ve been through so much trauma, we’re still working on things to get over all kinds of things,” he said.
It is estimated that the Catawbas now have 3,370 members. It is estimated that half of the original Catawba population was killed in a smallpox epidemic. War and cultural upheaval have reduced the tribe even further.
“We can’t necessarily always put that into words. I think art opens the doors to express some of these things, ”he said.
Osborn’s presentations are open to the public. To register, links can be found on the USC Native American Studies Center website. Presentations for June 3, 4 and 5 are currently listed, but other dates are scheduled for July 8-10, July 17-19, July 29-31, and August 12.
The final exhibition of his work will be presented on August 27 and 28, where the public can attend in person the Center for Native American Studies.