Sharon Catlege, better known as the Crane Woman, is a Potawatomi artist whose work is featured at the Citizen Potawatomi Gift Shop. She is a descendant of Delilah Bourassa, daughter of Joseph Bourassa. Catlege sat down with the Hownikan and talked about her art.
What kind of art do you create?
“I enjoy working with different mediums and experimenting with different materials. I started out painting in oils on canvas then I moved to acrylics. I also enjoy watercolor, driftwood, clay, paper, fabric and mixed media paintings. I love vibrant colors and textures and enjoy painting a variety of subjects, but mainly people, trees and birds.
“I took a gourd workshop at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum about six years ago and enjoyed it so much that I started making gourd art. I love working with gourds because our ancestors used gourds to hold water, food, seeds, medicine and as musical instruments. Decorated gourds were used in ceremonies and played an important part in stories, including the creation stories.”
What inspires you to create your art?
“I am inspired by the ancient wisdom and cultures of our ancestors, nature and my travels. Many of my paintings come from my photographs. My wish is to creatively express the beauty I see around me and its connection to our Earth Mother.
“Growing up in rural Oklahoma, visiting grandparents who lived on their allotment and listening to stories of our ancestors have peaked my interest and my continual research in, not only our CPN history, but Native American history.”
Where can people view and purchase your art?
“I have some gourds and paintings for sale at the gift shop and Birds of a Feather Art Gallery on Main Street in Shawnee, Oklahoma inside The Owl Shoppe Cafe. I also have gourds on display at the CPN Housing Department and CPN West Health Clinic next to the Grand Casino. My gourds are signed as ‘Crane Woman’ because my Potawatomi name Jejakwe means Crane Woman.”
What does being Citizen Potawatomi mean to you?
“Being Citizen Potawatomi means having connections to our cultural traditions and history. Knowledge of our ancestry enables us to pass on this information to our future generations. I am thankful to CPN and our cultural heritage center for preserving our treasures and creating a renewed interest in our culture.”
Catlege’s work is available at the gift shop or online at giftshop.potawatomi.org.