Jessica Clark

I document and preserve the everyday life of Southeastern native peoples using personal snapshots and photographs as a source. My work consists of paintings, drawings, lithographs, and photographs and, as a Lumbee native, are from my perspective. We, the Lumbee, are a version of the Postmodern Native, a combination of European, African, and Indigenous ancestry. We intermixed with other tribes and settlers, retained our cultural identity, and assimilated into European culture to survive, not succumbing to the meta-narrative of the Native American. Our daily lives bear witness to these tactics and are subjects for my work: we have various physical features, host powwows, attend Christian churches, have lived in the same area for the last 10,000 years (not a reservation), speak with a distinct Southern drawl and identify as Native American.

The act of creating allows meditation on the narrative and process, escaping to the moment the photograph was shot, becoming overcome by the emotions, sounds, and stories associated with each subject. The large format and vibrant colors of the paintings reflect the vitality of contemporary Native culture and identity, creating monuments to a people who have persevered in the face of oppression and the appeal of assimilation.

The subjects of my works include landscapes, the Lumbee River, Lumbee pinecone patchwork, and portraits of Lumbee people as well as members of other Southeastern tribes. The landscapes and pinecone patchwork convey our relationship to the land and the importance of our history. The Lumbee River has been a source of refuge for our people for thousands of years, providing life and also taking it away. Living along the river and among the pines, we are often referred to as ‘The People of the Pines.’ The pinecone patchwork, inspired by the longleaf pinecone, is only worn by the Lumbee on their regalia but it can be seen in jewelry, clothing design, and art.

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