Two Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal members collaborated to make a splash at a Sept. 8 Art Walk in Norman, Oklahoma, where hundreds of local residents enjoyed art, live music and activities.
Kristen Arambula Hernandez, a member of the Wilmette family who is also of Mexican descent, hosts cacao ceremonies and other cultural-spiritual gatherings at her downtown loft studio, AKI KIN. For Art Walk, she partnered with Bourbonnais/Bruno descendant Lauren Kelly.
Arambula Hernandez offered cacao products and brief talks on the history of ceremonial cacao, while Kelly brought Visions, a pop-up exhibit of transcendental figurative contemporary paintings.
Locals who entered the space first saw Kelly’s She Came From The Sky, a large portrait of Sky Woman displayed low to the ground and surrounded by decorative fruit and foliage branches with large indoor trees on either side.
The show’s aesthetic was inspired by the ofrenda, the traditional colorful Mexican table altar for remembrance of ancestors.
“We wanted to use the visual language of devotion,” Kelly said. “These paintings are all about resiliency, ancestral knowledge and radical self-acceptance. By bringing the artwork lower to the ground and decorating the tables with fruit, greenery and kokum scarves, we aimed to elevate this body of work to a status of sublime mystery.”
Kokum is the Cree word for grandmother and the scarves have been popular among Indigenous female elders for decades. Today, the scarves are worn by a younger generation as a fashion statement. When asked what brought them together, both women stressed the importance of showing up as Potawatomi women in unconventional places.
“We felt it was a great opportunity to collaborate,” Arambula Hernandez said of the event. “Not only did we share a creative vision for this Art Walk, but we shared a vision for sowing more visibility for our people in the contemporary arts and culture sphere.”
“As bodéwadmi kwek (Potawatomi women), it is so critically important that we uplift each other and show up in spaces where we aren’t necessarily expected. We always shine brighter together,” Kelly said.
Arambula Hernandez said she has collaborated with several Indigenous women since opening AKI KIN in 2022, and she hopes to continue to feature different artists each month. Those interested in collaborating with her can email email@example.com.
Arambula Hernandez’s loft studio draws its name from aki, meaning land or earth in Potawatomi, and kin, referring to relations or family. At AKI KIN, she offers private and traveling ceremonies, as well as women’s retreats. She also carries cacao and cacao butter. See more at akikin.org.
Kelly also recently showed another collection, Beyond the Veil, at Scratch Kitchen & Cocktails in downtown Norman. She is a 2023 Oklahoma NextGen Under 30 honoree for the arts and a finalist for Paseo FEAST 2023. For more information about Kelly and her work, visit laurenkelly.art.