(STILLWATER, Okla., Jan. 23, 2024) — An exhibition of works by Kansas-born Cherokee artist Hattie Lee Mendoza opened at the Gardiner Gallery of Art in the Bartlett Center on Oklahoma State University’s Stillwater campus on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
“Hattie Lee Mendoza: Gathering Joy” is the first solo exhibition in Oklahoma for the Illinois-based artist. It features roughly 100 artworks across a variety of media, including drawings, prints, sculptures and paintings, using techniques such as weaving, quilting, etching, appliqué and beadwork.
As a part of the Cherokee Nation diaspora — in addition to her Swiss-German, Scotch-Irish and other ancestry — Mendoza investigates through her body of work how culture and tradition is often diluted due to history and cultural climates or locations, and how they can be relearned and revalued. This results in a broad array of works that blend vibrant abstracted patterns, personal imagery, traditional craft techniques and cultural symbolism into a collaged and layered expression of joy.
“Visitors to the Gardiner Gallery will experience the spiraling nature of Mendoza’s work, which covers the walls and, even in some cases, the floor of the gallery in visual and thematic echoes of one another,” reviewer Emily Christensen wrote in Art Focus Magazine’s winter 2024 issue.
Although Mendoza has never lived in Oklahoma, this is a homecoming of sorts for her; Mendoza’s grandmother was born and raised in White Oak, Oklahoma, and much of her art is inspired by her grandmother’s legacy. This includes Mendoza’s “Intertwined (Wedding Quilt)” and “Dickies (Grandmother’s Tribute Series),” the latter comprised of a set of her grandmother’s dickies — or detachable shirt-front inserts — decorated to represent different things that her grandmother loved.
“In the two generations between us, it wasn’t emphasized,” Mendoza told Art Focus Magazine. “It was, ‘Oh, we’re Cherokee, and grandma’s very proud of being Cherokee,’ and that’s kind of where it was left. I always grew up interested in my Native heritage, but I wasn’t in a position to know what to do about it.”
Solidifying her ties to her Cherokee heritage, Mendoza won first place in the Emerging Artist category at the 51st Annual Trail of Tears Art Show and Sale in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, for her gouache and watercolor work “Winter Has Passed,” which is featured in the Gardiner Gallery exhibition. In 2023, Mendoza also won first place in the Contemporary Basketry category at the 28th annual Cherokee Homecoming Show. Mendoza has consistently shown her work across the U.S. over the past five years and was recently included in the inaugural exhibition “Native Futures” at the Center for Native Futures in Chicago.
“Hattie Lee Mendoza: Gathering Joy” is on view through Friday, Feb. 16, and is free to the public. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A closing reception will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15, with an artist talk at 6 p.m. Mendoza will also be offering an artist workshop to OSU art students at Prairie Arts Center as part of her visit.
This Gardiner Gallery of Art special exhibition is sponsored by OSU Student Fees, OSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Oklahoma Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.