By Morgan Taylor, Reporter
TULSA, Oklahoma – Being an artist in the time of a pandemic can be difficult, giving way to the term ‘starving artist.’ But for one young Muscogee man it has allowed him more time to become inspired by his Native history.
Kirk Morrison is a multimedia and digital artist from Tulsa, Oklahoma which is where he grew up. Morrison said the pandemic has been hard on his career.
“Me and my fiancé are both artist and we have been grinding,” said Morrison. “There is no stop. I registered for Mayfest thinking I wasn’t going to get in, so that was a huge thing for me to be accepted, unfortunately that didn’t take place this year due to the coronavirus. Some of the biggest shows I was accepted to this year have been cancelled.”
Kirk holds a Journalism degree from the University of Kansas. He attended early college years at Haskell Indian Nations University, which is where the fascination with his Muscogee Creek heritage began.
“I didn’t grow up with a Muscogee background,” Morrison said. “I always knew, but we hadn’t gone through the work to trace our lineage back. In 2010, my family gathered to do the work to get our tribal cards right before the time I went to college. We went down to Okmulgee to search documents and we learned so much together.”
Kirk is from the Katsalgi clan. Learning his Creek heritage inspired him to create Native American artwork.
Kirk’s work is multidimensional in medium and mental depth. His pieces range from digital to tangible and evoke social and political provocativeness. Kirk’s pieces have been displayed in shows, stores, and homes all around Oklahoma as well as nationally. His striking artistry tells stories that captivate and educate even non-Native peers. Kirk views art through a lens-shaped by his life’s experiences. He creates with the hope that his art can be a part of something larger than myself.
“A lot of my work comes form stuff that comes from reading history. Something as simple as an image from a story makes me want to go into Photoshop or grab wood panels to bring that image to life,” said Morrison.
Kirk’s art honors the trials of the Muscogee Nation and looks towards fellow Muscogee artists John Tiger, Dana Tiger, Dan Beaver, along with Creek poet Joy Harjo for inspiration and Sterlin Harjo, Muscogee Creek influencer and filmmaker.
“All the Native people that I’ve connected with are people I didn’t grow up with. To be able to bring some of that American Indian imagery and history into the lives of my close friends that aren’t native is something that I think is cool. They don’t really think about Native Americans but I can be that voice and bring it in their lives. A lot of my following is non native people,” said Kirk.
Outside of the tribe, he draws inspiration from Steven Paul Judd, a Kiowa poet and Bunky Echo Hawk, Pawnee artist.
“I would describe my style as native-inspired contemporary art. I use Photoshop to make digital composites and I use wood panels to create mixed media from paper and acrylics for the most part,” Kirk said.
Still in the beginning stages of his career, Morrison has yet to win any awards. He has had two solo shows and has been featured at Gailey’s Diner in Springfield, Missouri as well as been sold at the Tulsa Artery.
“Overcoming adversity and adapting to unfavorable conditions is nothing new for any American Indian – and for a Native artist, it’s even more commonplace. This COVID situation has changed the work landscape for all of us, and we’ve all been forced to pivot our revenue strategies. Going ‘digital’ is the new wave, and quarantine has forced us to speed that process up. Being able to sell art online and through Instagram has kept me and my fiance’s art business alive,” said Morrison.
Kirk is finding it interesting to have to put a screen in between the person and the piece during this time. He is the Grand Optimist, though, and knows that brighter days are ahead. He is using this time in quarantine to create quality connections, via the Internet, with other Native American artists as well as those who seek to learn about the meaning behind his pieces.
“I’ve had so much extra time to read and become inspired during the lock down. Reading the stories of our ancestors is what usually sparks an artistic vision in my head. I’ve had tons of inspiration during the past few months. I’ve been reading mostly Mvskoke historical chronicles, as well as the writings of David Lewis, Jr. and other traditional healers. Our People have known disease and hardship. For me, being strong and resilient in the face of COVID is an act that honors those who came before us. Every time we succeed in the face of adversity, we show that our medicine is still strong,” said Morrison.
Kirk plans to be featured in the Red Stick Gallery in Okmulgee and participate in tribal shows all over Oklahoma when the COVID rules lift.
“I’m just getting started, there’s more to come,” Kirk said.
Morrison’s artwork can viewed and purchased on any of his social media outlets under @kirkfromoklahoma or can be viewed and purchased on his website www.curlywolfcreative.com