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

Statement · Biography · Bibliography

Artist Statement
Sara Bates

In order to understand the visual dialogue found in this series of artwork called "Honoring," and to access the "forms" used to create this exchange, it is necessary to understand that Native American people, in general, perceive the environment as an aware, conscious entity permeated with spiritual power. Our traditional belief systems teach us to respect the environment because it holds the order and structure of things.

This relationship between the natural world and Human Beings is sacred, reciprocal and mutually dependent. Interactions with the environment are a respectful and spiritual exchange; we know the presence of human beings affects the interplay of nature's forces. The concept of being in harmony with this interplay requires very careful attention to life's pathway and processes.

It is important to honor events and experiential knowledge. The "Honoring" pieces I create center on the traditional world view of my tribe, the Cherokee. They represent how I, as one Cherokee, incorporate traditional views in my everyday life. I connect and honor these fluid relationships with the natural world by participating in gathering from the natural environment. Forms are then created which express this process through the infusion of tribally specific symbols and other personally developed symbols which are more than a representation of a concept or phenomenon, or simply an emotionally charged icon; many times the symbols become part of the symbolized reality itself. Symbols reveal the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom.

My lived experience and my traditional values tell me this information is sacred. I have been gathering from the natural world and participating in this process for 18 years. All that I have gathered will fit into four small boxes 15"x22"x12". I recycle everything I honor. When the exhibition is over, I will pick up all materials in the "Honoring" and recycle them into a new form. I continually create these forms in my studio whether anyone sees them or not. I gather only in small amounts, asking for permission through prayer for what I take from the Earth and try to follow the natural cycle of the seasons. Some things I borrow and return to the natural place where I found them. My relationship to the natural world is complex and healing. I believe this information is vital to understanding what it means to be a Human Being.


We are all unique and on a different path. To know our path we must follow the way of relationship with all living things if we are to survive and continue as Human Beings. This is the way to live in a good way.

Postmodern science has declared that everything is composed of a subatomic flux of wavelets and particles, chaos and pattern, all boundaries are fluid, possibilities are endless, and the separation many Human Beings feel is an illusion. We are all related, birds, animals, plants, trees, earth, wind, fire, water, and all Human Beings. Every molecule in our bodies participates in this relationship and exhibits beauty. Interconnectedness is reality. Process and participation is everything. Experiential knowledge of the interconnectedness of the natural world is far more than a decorative component to intellectual comprehension of scientific observations. Experiencing this connectedness through subtle awareness can test the conceptual knowledge and move understanding to a place beyond linear concepts.

I connect and honor these fluid relationships by participating in gathering and "Honoring" what I have come to know and value. My images are an expression of that process. What disturbs me sometimes is the dialogue I hear quite often in the art world about everything being socially or culturally produced through discourse. And without this discourse, we can't access each other's work as artists. This is true of some things but not all things. While you may not completely understand the infusion of tribally specific symbols which come from Cherokee stories, legends, songs, dances, prayers, and architecture, you can understand them as part of the symbolized reality itself. Symbols reveal the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom, regardless of whether the artist is working on the conceptual, realistic or spiritual level, and there is an acceptance that all these levels exist both independently and simultaneously. I believe you can access the "Honoring" because you are a Human Being and are related to all the beauty the Earth exhibits and are connected through every part of your body. This is a natural gift that we as Human Beings have been given.

Statement · Biography · Bibliography

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All text and artwork © Sara Bates.