James Groening

Artist Statement

My art is a journey of healing and growth where I attempt to regain a sense of cultural understanding that was lost. I was born in the 60s and raised in a farm community, far removed from any Native art, but interested in learning about my heritage. At age 24, I met my maternal mother and told her I knew my Indian name, Blue Sky. She was surprised but said that Blue Sky was only the first part of my name and the second was lost in time. This is fitting for my life. Lost in a time when things were hard for natives, and now, I am searching for my shadow, as the story goes.

I began learning about Native art and found that I liked the west coast style, and I bought a few prints. I loved the hummingbird I bought and started drawing it and other things I have seen. After purchasing an original painting set by Mark Anthony Jacobson, I found that the Woodland School of Art was a whole new area of art closer to my ancestors.

Today, I make Woodland-style native art where I paint legends and whimsical wildlife on things I make like drums and an eagle head staff. It is very important to convey what I learn about my culture through legends and teachings because generations have lost so much information and a sense of cultural identity. It is also easier to learn a complex truth through a cheerful medium like painting. For example, my work, Turtle Legend, teaches children where they live on Turtle Island in a way they can comprehend.

I seem to find a peaceful balance when doing art, which brings some relief in these hectic times. I hope to learn more and contribute to the art world by creating and teaching those who want to learn. I think this is the way forward for our cultural heritage to heal and grow.

Image credit: by James Groening

More About the Artist
Instagram: @blueskyjwg