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Pourier receives Bush Foundation fellowship

MINNEAPOLIS ñ Kevin Pourier spends a lot of time and energy during an art show explaining what his art actually is.

Pourier creates traditional buffalo horn art; that is, he uses buffalo horn to make spoons, jewelry, cups and other items. A horn spoon with inlay of crushed stone and shells in the northern Plains style does not look like a typical spoon, and it may have butterflies or flowers or other designs. Horn spoons were used traditionally by the Plains tribes, made out of a buffalo horn cap. It is a rather hard material and when polished, it shines black like a precious stone.

Pourier has been doing this work for 20 years and has won numerous awards, but never a Best of Show, he said. Sometimes the art gets in the way of the top award.

As an example, he said some judges didnít know what the object was; another judge said he could have won Best of Show, but it has a scratch. That scratch is part of the horn cap, a natural part of the buffalo horn, and is not a flaw.

Pourier is the recipient of a Bush Foundation Fellowship, one of three awarded to Lakota artists. This is the first time the Bush Foundation has expanded into the area of individual artists and the very first time any American Indian has been made a Bush Fellow in traditional and folk art.

The Bush Foundation awards 15 fellowships to artists in the region of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and northern Wisconsin. The artist is given a stipend that will allow them to spend a year working on their art with an emphasis on exploring their artistic talents and skills without the need to consume time to market their work to survive.

ìI started working on deer and elk antler, it was really different. This guy who taught me said, ëItís good you can do this; eventually, try your own stuff.í I tried a pair of eagle feather buffalo horns and the black was so beautiful, and I have stuck with buffalo horn ever since,î Pourier said.

He said he seldom gets credit for doing buffalo horn, and has been advised that it would be more lucrative to work with silver and other materials, but he sticks with buffalo horn.

ìPeople are so intrigued when they see it, and itís beautiful and they love it, but I guess itís not the jewelry or ledger art or other recognizable art as northern Plains, like hide paintings. Itís been a struggle educating everybody who sees this.î

The art Pourier creates has its roots with his ancestors. He went to the Smithsonian to document inlay and find out the history of it. He found a dozen pieces that were inlayed, mostly yellow and red, and the one that Crazy Horse used was a blue piece. That demonstrated that there is a history of the use of buffalo horn as functional art.

A difference between historical buffalo horn work and his contemporary horn art is that Pourier may make a political statement in the design. Not that a story or some type of statement wasnít made in the past: one of Pourierís buffalo horn cups has the image Mount Rushmore split in the middle by a herd of buffalo.

ìThatís what our ancestors did, when you look back at the ledger drawings ñ you can see how they lived. When you look back on contemporary art 200 years from now, people will say, ëWow, this guy is making a statement, he is speaking out.í And thatís what as contemporary Native people, not chasing buffalo, speaking out about oppression or assimilation,î Pourier said.

Pourier works in his studio attached to a barn on his ranch near Scenic, S.D., located in the Badlands on the northern edge of the Pine Ridge Reservation. He said his studio leaks air, and rattlesnakes have been known to visit. Pourier is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and grew up in Rapid City, S.D.

He attends some of the top art shows in the country, especially the Santa Fe Indian Art Market and displays his work frequently at the Heard Museum. He also has pieces at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and has been featured in the touring group exhibit of the New York Museum of Art and Design, ìChanging Hands II: Art Without Reservation.î

ìIím really struggling with what the Bush Fellowship means. It is supposed to give you time to reflect, and as a struggling artist going from show to show, Iím just thinking Iím in this mode of thinking, ëI need to go to the next showí and building up inventory. I think I should be at home getting work done.

ìI havenít really adjusted to it.î

He said he wanted to put together a body of work to exhibit at a museum. Itís different because Pourier is a market artist and past Bush Fellows, he said, are supereducated.

ìItís strange, I thought those artists were an elite group, so being selected as a fellow Ö I donít know what to think about it.î

Pourier said he could not sell his work in the Black Hills because of the price tag. He was told that he had to make $10 and $15 items to make a living in the area.

ìI guess you could make some money that day, but I donít want to do that. Thatís why I leave South Dakota and go to Santa Fe.î

He sells his work at markets where people from all over the world attend.

With the Bush Fellowship money, he said, he thought of doing some work in bronze so that he could make pieces less expensive and make more of them.

ìI will only be able to make so many pieces. I will never be able to make a hundred of these and so you are really limited. You think you will never be rich, never have a fancy house in Rapid City.î

Pourier said he was honored to have a piece in the Smithsonian, next to his ancestorís. He makes only one item ñ they are one of a kind, he said.

ìAt the shows you can tell a real grass-roots Indian person, or cowboy, who will have stories on buffalo that their ancestors passed down. They really respond to this and they are impressed; they shake my hand and say good job, and thatís just as good as having something in the Smithsonian.î

MINNEAPOLIS ñ Kevin Pourier spends a lot of time and energy during an art show explaining what his art actually is.Pourier creates traditional buffalo horn art; that is, he uses buffalo horn to make spoons, jewelry, cups and other items. A horn spoon with inlay of crushed stone and shells in the northern Plains style does not look like a typical spoon, and it may have butterflies or flowers or other designs. Horn spoons were used traditionally by the Plains tribes, made out of a buffalo horn cap. It is a rather hard material and when polished, it shines black like a precious stone.Pourier has been doing this work for 20 years and has won numerous awards, but never a Best of Show, he said. Sometimes the art gets in the way of the top award. As an example, he said some judges didnít know what the object was; another judge said he could have won Best of Show, but it has a scratch. That scratch is part of the horn cap, a natural part of the buffalo horn, and is not a flaw.Pourier is the recipient of a Bush Foundation Fellowship, one of three awarded to Lakota artists. This is the first time the Bush Foundation has expanded into the area of individual artists and the very first time any American Indian has been made a Bush Fellow in traditional and folk art.The Bush Foundation awards 15 fellowships to artists in the region of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and northern Wisconsin. The artist is given a stipend that will allow them to spend a year working on their art with an emphasis on exploring their artistic talents and skills without the need to consume time to market their work to survive.ìI started working on deer and elk antler, it was really different. This guy who taught me said, ëItís good you can do this; eventually, try your own stuff.í I tried a pair of eagle feather buffalo horns and the black was so beautiful, and I have stuck with buffalo horn ever since,î Pourier said.He said he seldom gets credit for doing buffalo horn, and has been advised that it would be more lucrative to work with silver and other materials, but he sticks with buffalo horn.ìPeople are so intrigued when they see it, and itís beautiful and they love it, but I guess itís not the jewelry or ledger art or other recognizable art as northern Plains, like hide paintings. Itís been a struggle educating everybody who sees this.îThe art Pourier creates has its roots with his ancestors. He went to the Smithsonian to document inlay and find out the history of it. He found a dozen pieces that were inlayed, mostly yellow and red, and the one that Crazy Horse used was a blue piece. That demonstrated that there is a history of the use of buffalo horn as functional art.A difference between historical buffalo horn work and his contemporary horn art is that Pourier may make a political statement in the design. Not that a story or some type of statement wasnít made in the past: one of Pourierís buffalo horn cups has the image Mount Rushmore split in the middle by a herd of buffalo. ìThatís what our ancestors did, when you look back at the ledger drawings ñ you can see how they lived. When you look back on contemporary art 200 years from now, people will say, ëWow, this guy is making a statement, he is speaking out.í And thatís what as contemporary Native people, not chasing buffalo, speaking out about oppression or assimilation,î Pourier said.Pourier works in his studio attached to a barn on his ranch near Scenic, S.D., located in the Badlands on the northern edge of the Pine Ridge Reservation. He said his studio leaks air, and rattlesnakes have been known to visit. Pourier is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and grew up in Rapid City, S.D.He attends some of the top art shows in the country, especially the Santa Fe Indian Art Market and displays his work frequently at the Heard Museum. He also has pieces at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and has been featured in the touring group exhibit of the New York Museum of Art and Design, ìChanging Hands II: Art Without Reservation.îìIím really struggling with what the Bush Fellowship means. It is supposed to give you time to reflect, and as a struggling artist going from show to show, Iím just thinking Iím in this mode of thinking, ëI need to go to the next showí and building up inventory. I think I should be at home getting work done.ìI havenít really adjusted to it.îHe said he wanted to put together a body of work to exhibit at a museum. Itís different because Pourier is a market artist and past Bush Fellows, he said, are supereducated. ìItís strange, I thought those artists were an elite group, so being selected as a fellow Ö I donít know what to think about it.îPourier said he could not sell his work in the Black Hills because of the price tag. He was told that he had to make $10 and $15 items to make a living in the area.ìI guess you could make some money that day, but I donít want to do that. Thatís why I leave South Dakota and go to Santa Fe.îHe sells his work at markets where people from all over the world attend.With the Bush Fellowship money, he said, he thought of doing some work in bronze so that he could make pieces less expensive and make more of them.ìI will only be able to make so many pieces. I will never be able to make a hundred of these and so you are really limited. You think you will never be rich, never have a fancy house in Rapid City.îPourier said he was honored to have a piece in the Smithsonian, next to his ancestorís. He makes only one item ñ they are one of a kind, he said.ìAt the shows you can tell a real grass-roots Indian person, or cowboy, who will have stories on buffalo that their ancestors passed down. They really respond to this and they are impressed; they shake my hand and say good job, and thatís just as good as having something in the Smithsonian.î