Third graders received a special visit from modern-contemporary Native American artist Mark D. Shelton on Thursday. Shelton put his artwork on display, answered questions, and discussed with third graders his passion for art.
“I’m very inspired by my love for my Native culture,” Shelton said in the virtual meeting with students. “These inspirations that converge are my love of my Native people, their history, and my love of art. It seems all of this is symbiotic and it's a great form of expression.”
After moving to Oregon in 1984, Shelton earned an associate of applied science degree from Portland Community College, his bachelor in fine arts with honors from Pratt Institute in New York City, and received certification as an Honorary Chinook Tribal Artist.
“I've seen the children inspired by his work—just seeing an artist who sells their work and the people who want to buy his artwork is really inspiring for them,” Lower School Visual Arts Teacher Margaret Synan-Russell said. “He speaks about his whole process and it inspires them and gives them ideas that aren't just coming from me or coming from other visuals that they see.”
Shelton’s artwork is primarily collaging work. He uses paint, paper, and other materials to create stunning and colorful works of art.
“What I like about the quality of Mark’s work is the depth of his layering in his collages,” Synan-Russell said. “It's as though each piece of paper that he collages has meaning to him. A piece of paper may have come from Japan or another may have been handmade by somebody in the Southwest pueblos, for example. Everything that he is using to collage has special meaning to him.”
Third graders then showed Shelton their collages and talked about their art inspirations.
“I think it's really important that we, in the arts, bring in people from the outside to show the children more and more examples and more inspiration so it broadens the diversity of who they see,” Synan-Russell said. “Bringing Mark, a Native American artist, to students shows them that Native Americans aren't only in our history, but rather are right here with us in our current day. To meet a Native American in a way that they can relate to him is really enlightening. He's a maker just like they are.”