The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 10, 2013

An artist’s eye

Oakwood woman’s photos, crafts on display

BY MARY WICOFF
Commercial-News

— What’s great about Sherri Easley’s office is that there’s no overhead — unless you count the clouds in the sky or the leafy branches on the trees.

“My studio is what God created outside,” said Easley, photographer, artist and creator of Native American items. “I observe nature. I love watching wildlife.”

Easley’s creative work is on display for at least two months at the Westville Public Library.

Dorothy Fava, who is in charge of exhibits at the library, first noticed Easley’s art at the Georgetown Fair last year, and asked if she’d like to have a display at the library.

“If people have an interesting collection, we want to get the community involved,” she said. An exhibit committee selects artwork, which is on display for two months. Fava also is a member of the Danville Art League.

Referring to Easley’s artwork, Fava said, “It’s beautiful.”

Late last week, Easley and her husband, Douglas, were busy sorting through dozens of photos, trying to decide which to hang on the library walls. Several display cases will hold her Native American handiwork.

Fava was instrumental in helping the couple set up the exhibit.

Easley, who lives outside Oakwood, runs Mitakuye Oyasin Creations, which specializes in photos, calendars, slide shows, specialty crafts and other items. Mitakuye Oyasin is Lakota Sioux for “All My Relations.”

Easley is adopted into a Lakota family in North Dakota, and she has Native American blood. Her paternal grandmother, born in Oklahoma, was Choctaw, and her family moved to this area when she was 3. Easley’s mother has some Cherokee blood.

Of all her siblings, Easley said she feels her Native American heritage most strongly. Her home is filled with paintings, statues, dolls, artwork and other items reflecting her background.

She has a special affinity for bison because of her heritage, and she and her .husband used to help out on a bison farm near Williamsport, Ind.

One of the items on display at the library is a bison skull that Easley has decorated with mosaic tiles. She also has a smaller deer skull, with antlers, in a mosaic motif.

Many of her Native American items use turkey feathers, which she obtains at powwows and festivals such as Feast of the Hunter’s Moon. She uses only embellishments that are legal, such as the turkey feathers (instead of eagle feathers, for example, which are restricted by law).

When she gets turkey feathers, she goes through a process of washing, disinfecting and drying them.

The turkey feathers come in a variety of colors and sizes, and can be fashioned into fans.

Easley also has a spear on display, which has been decorated with deer skin and feathers, as well as a hand-carved walking stick. Another item is a wooden dance stick (carried by dancers) that resembles a palomino horse, complete with a flowing white leather mane and real horse hair tail. There’s also a dance stick with a dream catcher at one end.

Also on display is a deer skin shield that she decorated with her own handprint; her special colors of turquoise, black and burgundy; feathers and beads. Many of her items have beads in red, yellow, black and white — representing the four directions.

Easley has made about 100 purses, including one made of bison hair. For the display, she brought a white deer skin pouch, complete with deer hooves and beads, to hold sweet grass; a small pouch with an abalone shell; and a larger buckskin pouch.

All of the items were made by Easley; her Native American friends taught her how to do the crafts.

Easley’s photos capture a variety of subjects, but most are of nature and animals. One photo is a close-up of the nails left behind on a utility pole after the yard sale signs were removed.

“If it catches my eye, I shoot it,” she said.

Another is a close-up photo of a bison’s eye, which shows the reflection of a pickup truck; that photo was published in National Bison Magazine.

Her favorite subjects are anything to do with nature. She photographs people, too — but usually outdoors. One of her photos captures singer Jared Yates in an outdoors setting.

Other favorite subjects include her Chihuahua, Mr. Bojangles, and her two cats, as well as her grown children and grandchildren.

“Anyone can be a photographer,” she said. “Any photo is a good photo as long as you like what you shot. If anyone else likes it, that’s a bonus.”

Besides photography, Easley does paintings and artwork. She also puts together photo CDs with special music. She will have a price list on hand at the library so people may order prints or crafts.

FYI

Sherri Easley’s photos and Native American items will be on display at the Westville Public Library through April, and possibly longer. The library is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Artists who want to display their work may call the library at 267-3170 for more information.