On display from October 12 through November 21, 2012

Natasha Smoke Santiago was born in Rochester, New York, and brought up in the traditions of the Longhouse by a close-knit extended family. Her grandparents were part of a Mohawk diaspora from Akwesasne (New York), Oshweken (Ontario), and other parts of Iroquoia who found work in Rochester and established families there. Her artistic talent blossomed early and she was encouraged by family members, some of whom were also artists and artisans. In her early teens, she returned to Akwesasne, her grandfathers’ homeland, joining a wave of returning emigrants.

In Akwesasne, her artistic talents flourished. She now works in many media to chronicle traditional Haudenosaunee culture, contemporary life, the miracle of pregnancy and the beauty of the natural world. Her art sustains her spiritually, emotionally, and financially as she builds for the future with her husband and children.

Natasha attempts to live sustainably on the small farm she works with her family. Together they live in a strawbale home, practicing small-scale farming and permaculture. She regularly volunteers in her community of Akwesasne and works with a group of farmers, teachers, and artists.

  Artist Commentary (Skywoman)

  Natasha Smoke Santiago:

I wanted to say something about diabetes with my artwork. I've grown up surrounded by this terrible affliction; the people I love most suffer because of it. A greater awareness must be created about how diabetes works and the choices that lead to it. This epidemic affects many people, not only Onkwehonwe, although it is especially prevalent among us, so much so that it is becoming imprinted upon our culture. There are people who grow up expecting to become diabetic, and both insulin needles and blood glucose monitors are a normal sight. I've watched, through my family members who must cope, as insulin delivery technologies have advanced from bottles and syringes to pens and, now, digital pumps, which must be carefully monitored, all the while treating the symptoms, not the cause. My hopes for future generations, including my own and that of my children, are that we do not have to suffer from this disease, that we will make better choices, and that we will live healthier lifestyles. I do not want to be the fifth generation of diabetics in my family.

Leah Smoke (Mother)

There's a long family history of diabetes on both sides of the family. Many have been affected by the disease and have suffered from its complications. It’s a difficult disease to manage and keep under control. One of the easiest ways to control diabetes is to test it regularly and be more aware of what is happening in your body. You have to use the insulin or medication at proper dosages to keep blood sugars at a normal level. By keeping your blood sugars close to normal, you can prevent complications. Complications include congestive heart failure, blindness, and neuropathies (damage to the nervous system that causes pain in the legs, feet, and hands). These complications also affect the kidneys, which results in the need for dialysis. Diabetic patients are also at risk for infections. Talk to your physician to determine the best way to control your blood sugars.


Artist Commentary (Strawberry Belly)

This is the first in a series of basketry-inspired belly sculptures. I wanted to incorporate the form and flair of Mohawk splint basketry, a world-renowned tradition, into the three dimensional canvas of the belly cast. This belly takes its form from a “strawberry basket”, a small keepsake basket, shaped and dyed to resemble the strawberry.







Other works on display