Through her research, artwork, and photography, Wendy Red Star reassesses misconceptions around Native identity from a distinctly feminist, Indigenous perspective. In the comic about her life and work that SAAM recently published as part of the series Drawn to Art: Tales of Inspiring Women Artists, “Wendy Red Star: Crow-Centric” pays tribute to the artist’s ancestry and practice right from the start. The eye-catching cover, based on a double portrait photograph that Red Star created of herself and her daughter, was drawn by Ana Parra, a student-illustrator at the Ringling College of Art and Design. It is a portrait of the artist that is full of beauty and strength, filled with details about Red Star’s heritage.
Born in 1981, Wendy Red Star grew up on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, the daughter of an Irish mother, a nurse who encouraged her daughter to pursue Crow culture, and her Crow father, a licensed pilot who played in the Indian rock band, The Maniacs.
As a child, Red Star would venture into her grandmother’s sewing room and watch her make traditional outfits. Red Star was captivated, a scene captured by Ana that reveals both the handwork and the heartwork that drew Red Star in.
The comic follows Red Star through college and her commitment to being an artist, working in photography, fiber art, and performance. The scene evokes both the humor and seriousness that runs through Red Star’s practice: “I come from a humorous background, not just my Crow side, but my Irish side as well. I’ve always seen things through an ironic lens.”
The comic then takes a closer look at Red Star’s Accession series, fifteen prints based on her research when she was the Native Artist-in-Residence at the Denver Art Museum in 2016-2017. With Ana’s illustrations bringing the story to life, the artist takes us on her investigation through historic archives, coupled with her experiences at the annual Crow summer celebration. Through this journey of discovery, Red Star emphasizes the beauty of Apsáalooke designs and their importance in Crow culture, creating a bridge between history and a living, thriving culture.
This comic is part of a series Drawn to Art: Tales of Inspiring Women Artists that illuminates the stories of women artists whose work is represented in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Inspired by graphic novels, these short takes on artists’ lives were each drawn by a student-illustrator from the Ringling College of Art and Design.
We invite you to read the comic and share it with your friends and young people in your life.