Honoring Water Spider
Natural materials, 7' diameter, (detail)
© Sara Bates, 1992

Statement · Biography · Bibliography

Sara Bates

Sara Bates is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation. She was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1944. In 1987, Bates completed a bachelor's degree in studio art and women's studies at California State University in Bakersfield. She did graduate work in sculpture and painting at the University of California in Santa Barbara and earned a master of fine arts degree in 1989.

Bates is part of an influential group of Native American fine artists who have enveloped elements of their cultural background with European artistic traditions. This group of artists exhibits together based on philosophical ideals, rather than a common style or technique. Bates is important as an artist and curator in this movement. She was the director of exhibitions and programs/curator for American Indian Contemporary Arts (AICA) in San Francisco from 1990 through 1995.

During her tenure at AICA, she curated exhibitions such as Indian Humor and Native America: Reflecting Contemporary Realities. Through her work there, Bates perpetuated the momentum of the contemporary Native American fine arts movement by developing and touring exhibitions that dealt with important social and philosophical issues faced by American Indians living today. Bates also has lectured on topics such as, "American Indians and Ecology," at the American Indian Institute in San Francisco, and "Dismantling the Eurocentric Discourse on Visual Culture," at the University of Salford in Manchester, England.

Bates lived in San Francisco during 1997, where she was a practicing artist as well as an instructor in the Native American Studies Program at San Francisco State University. In 1998 she was visiting professor/artist in residence at Florida State University in Tallahassee. She makes frequent visits to her family and friends in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.


Chase, Margaret, ed. "Honoring Circles." New Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1997.

Collischan, Judith. Link of Abstraction and Spiritualism. Exhibition brochure. Montclair Museum, New Jersey, 1997.

Complo, Jennifer. Saint James Press Native North American Artists. Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art: Saint James Press, 1997.

Harrison, Helen. "Indigenous People Trapped in the Midst of a Cultural Gulf." New York Times 27 April 1997.

Raynor, Vivien. "Shows Reflect Multitudes of Different Styles." Review of exhibition at Neuberger Museum of Art, State University of New York - Purchase College, Purchase, NY. New York Times 16 September 1997.

Robertson, Jean. "Sense of Place." Surface 21.4 (1997).

Rushing, W. Jackson, ed. 20th Century Native American Art: Essays on History and Criticism. London: Routledge Ltd., 1997.

Statement · Biography · Bibliography

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All images © Sara Bates.
Biographical text by Jennifer Complo, Curator of
"Honoring Our Sacred Earth" Sara Bates 1997 exhibition,
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.