Isaiah Stewart

Greeting in native language

     Good evening I greet you with a handshake and an open heart. My name is Isaiah Stewart and I am Oglala Lakota.  I am proud to say I will be receiving my BFA in visual arts from The University of Kansas.  I stem from the influence of my parents who are both artists.  The influence of the arts is strong in my family from visiting museums, to witnessing their creative process.  My experiences in school have helped me evolve as an artist and created many opportunities in the arts. 

     I grew up always looking at my surroundings and setting up scenes in my sketchbooks that could perhaps capture a moment of time and share my world with others.  My father, a dreamer, influenced me to approach the world with passion and to be free of fear.  Being an artist there is are many fears that were projected on me by my choice to make drawing and painting my career.  But my father said, “Sonny Boy you are going to be great”.  When I am in the work my desire to create overwhelms my body and this joy extends to my love and appreciation for the outside world.

     I came here from Haskell Indian Nations University where a grad student from KU Art and Design program named Misha Kligman took our small class to KU and had a direct influence on my choice to attend the University.  Misha was always pushing us to think big towards our future as artists.  My first day was a shock from a small school where I knew most of the Haskell community on a first named basis to having a locker on several floors of a six story building.  I can remember being to nervous just changing my locker combination.  Then a miracle happened -- there was another student in my core class, a white kid just sketching Native Americans.  I asked him where he was from, he said “Overland Park”… I was like wow that’s a nice Rez. The creator had sent me my good friend Matt to have some connection and feel comfortable.

       My first painting class offered me another connection to a Grad student, Gina Adams an Ojibwe, who encouraged me to paint large and prepared me for what was next. 

     After Gina, I enrolled in Carol Ann Carter’s painting class.  Carol Ann -a distinguished artist herself -pushed me to concepts and ideas I was uncomfortable with.  I had to be responsible for the research of my work- to develop it conceptually. And the days of one centered image were over.  I can admit at times I wanted to quit but there was something about this short powerful woman that told me she cared.  She was preparing me for the real world and this helped diversify my work.

     I am interested in the figure and studied figure drawing almost the whole time I attended KU.  The process of translating on paper movement throughout the body and building the figure challenges me each and every class.  My instructor and mentor John Swindell told me “now I’m going to tell you this because I know you can take criticism, otherwise you wouldn’t be where you are”.  John’s encouragement reminds me of my dad, he truly wishes for me to succeed.

     When I come home from school, I feel alive and constantly I am coming up with new ideas for painting to show my beautiful wife, Melissa, who has been my support through my education.  When I met her, I wouldn’t have even thought about attending college. She was in school, and I was very intimidated by her education.   She always strives for greatness, and is the mother to our beautiful daughter.

      My time here at KU has been precious. I’m grateful for the gifts that every individual has given me. These gifts have touched my soul and given me something to share with you.  I believe faith has brought my many opportunities and the connection that drives my purpose as an artist is connected to the universe.  This reaction and respect towards my calling will always take care of me, and my endeavors.  I thank you for your time and contribution to my life, all of you graduates, we are the creators of the world’s vision. 

Thank You.