Avis Charley Ledger Artist – Pow Wow Life 57

Avis Charley Ledger Artist – Pow Wow Life 57

Join Paul G for an interview with artist Avis Charley.

About Avis Charley

Avis Charley (Spirit Lake Dakota/Diné) is a mother and an artist. She was born and raised in Los Angeles. Charley is a painter and a ledger artist using colored pencils on antique documents. She enjoys depicting Native empowerment using the female form as her main subject. Charley relishes in bringing attention to and celebrating the evolution of the Native identity, from pre-reservation period to present day, from ancestral homelands to city life. Charley is a graduate from the Institute of American Indian Arts and currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Avis Charley

PODCAST INTRO: Welcome to Pow Wow Life podcast from www.powwows.com, connecting you as a native culture since 1996. Here's your host, Paul Gowder.

Paul Gowder: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Pow Wow Life podcast. I'm your host Paul Gowder. Thank you for being part of our community here www.powwows.com. If you're new, or if you're a longtime part of our community, thanks for coming here. www.powwows.com is your place to come and explore, experience and connect with all things native culture. So thanks for being here. Today, I have an episode with Avis Charley, who is an artist and does some really cool photorealistic art, as well as ledger art. And if you're like me, I love some of the ledger art that's going on right now. And she does some really incredible work. But first, I do have a few announcements that we need to talk about before we get to the interview. First, don't forget this month, we are doing a special giveaway of five Pendleton blankets. Thanks to our friends over there at Pendleton for making this possible. Head on over to www.powwows.com/win to enter and you can enter daily until the end of the month for your chance to win one of those five Pendleton blankets. At the end of the show, I'll give you a bonus code just for listeners of the podcast to get extra entries into that contest. Also, at the end of the episode, I'll have this week's trivia question and see if you know some special little information. And that'll get you entered into winning a prize pack from www.powwows.com including some stickers and other goodies. Special shout out goes to members of our Patreon community. We've got some new people that joined this week. So I want to give a special shout out to them. Jackie, Joseph, Catherine, Russell, Maurice, thanks so much for being a part of our Patreon. If you'd like to join, I'd really appreciate your support, you can head on over to powwowsnation.com. And that's where you can jump in and join our special community over there. These are folks that are contributing each month, and really helping move www.powwows.com forward, we've got some really special things going on right now with our Patreon. We're doing a monthly zoom call where we kind of get to know each other and talk. And I've got some other really great things coming for our Patreon only in May. So if you want to learn more about that head over to powwowsnation.com. Now, in a couple of weeks, we will be streaming the gathering of nations Pow Wow live for the first time in person since 2019. This is the nation's largest Pow Wow and you're not gonna want to miss it. If you're not making it to Albuquerque, you got to watch it online. If you want to know more about the gathering of nations Pow Wow, head on over to our page www.powwows.com/2022GON and you get more information and make sure you don't miss any of the live stream going on.

All right, so here is our interview with Avis Charley. I'm so excited to have with me tonight. Avis Charley, an artist, a mother and just a really inspirational artist that has put some incredible art pieces out there. They want to talk about and dig into some of the meaning behind them. And she does ledger art, which I absolutely love. I'm obsessed with looking at always scrolling through Instagram looking at ledger art. And so when I saw hers recently and saw some of the things that she had going on, I knew I wanted to talk to her. So thank you so much for being here with me tonight.

Avis Charley: Hi Paul, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Paul Gowder: Yeah, so before we get too far into it, so tell me you know where you're from and kind of how you got started in doing your art?

Avis Charley: Okay. Hi [inaudible 05:02], hello relatives. My name is Avis Charley, and I am of spirit like Dakota and did a Navajo. And I was born and raised in LA. And so growing up, my first I guess, art community was a graffiti. You know, I was part of a graffiti crew. And so that was like my first taste of expressing myself with you know, different mediums. And then later on in life I went, I started, I became a leisure artist. And then I went back to school to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. And then that I transitioned from ledger art to figurative paintings, where with ledger art, I first started creating ledger art, because my mom had passed away. And so I would make, I would draw images of mother and daughter, adult daughter, and Mother images. And it was, you know, very healing for me, it was it helped me process her death. And so as I you know, continued healing and evolving as artists, then I started painting women, and I start thinking about, you know, how can I contribute to the dialogue? And so yes, I want to start representing modern women today. And so yeah, that's how I am. That's how I can be tell today.

Paul Gowder: That's really cool. And yeah, I want to talk about some of the meaning of these of your pieces. You can see for just scrolling through your Instagram, there are definitely some you're making some statements. So that's really cool. All right, for some of my viewers who aren't familiar with ledge art, can you tell me or just to tell them where this came from, and just a little history of ledger art, if they've never seen it before?

Avis Charley: Okay. Ledger art, a long time ago, our ancestors painted an animal hide, and they would share stories such as hunting scenes, quoting scenes and fighting scenes. But once they were put in a reservations or in prison, they no longer had access to natural material, they couldn't go hunting anymore. So they improvised and use materials that were available to them at that time, which was discarded pages from accounting ledger books, and color pencils and crayons from the general store. And this period was around about 1860 to 1910. And so those are museums now across the country. And it was a male dominated art form. So as a female ledger artists, you know, I'm using the same materials, except I'm expert. I'm bringing a women's perspective into this art form.

Paul Gowder: Cool. And you're doing, these are pencil art, right?

Avis Charley: Yes, it's a Leisure Arts very stylized, it was before European contact. So there was like, no influence of like, you know, realism, you know, perspective, color theory, it was more about sharing, just telling the story. It's a very flat art form.

Paul Gowder: Yeah. Which I just find fascinating. I love the some of the Pow Wows dancer dance styles, as you can see, and they're really cool stuff. So you know, you grew up in graffiti art. How did you make the transition from, you know, where do you, what did you take from graffiti that you were able to take into these different art forms?

Avis Charley: I guess it was about, like, what graffiti, you know, was about belonging. It was about because a lot of us were from single family homes. So like, our graffiti crews were like, you know, essentially, like our family. And so it was, it felt good to belong and be part of a group. But at the same time, also you know, expressing yourself. And so I remember when I first started spray painting on walls, or using markers, I just remember this, like, force coming out of me. And then just playing with different styles and trying to get better and better and constantly practicing and practicing. You know, it's just like I said, it was like a force in me. And then it was also about getting our names out there and getting up, you know, so people can recognize us. And I guess, you know, if you really think about it, it's about you know, presence, it's about establishing our presence, as you know, marginalized people. So same thing with leisure art, you know, I'm taking this, you know, these historical documents, and you know, I'm like, leaving my mark as a woman. So, you know, there's some parallels there, I can see.

Paul Gowder: Right, right. We just interviewed some folks from FNX. And they're working on a series featuring Native artists and kind of highlighting that and we talked a lot about how art is so personal? And every piece is, is in every artist is different, because you're putting your own personal spin on it. And you know, you talked a little bit about your mother, and the graffiti and what you're trying to do. So you know, if you want to, I'm going to show some of these pieces. Do you mind if I show a couple of these and you kind of tell us some of these stories and your inspiration behind them?

Avis Charley: Yeah, I'm gonna go take the chicken out.

Paul Gowder: Yeah, go ahead. That’s cool.

Avis Charley: It will take me a second. Okay, sorry about that.

Paul Gowder: No, it's all good. So this one, though, remember me this way, and as well as your mother daughter, I'm assuming these are the ones you were talking about earlier.

Avis Charley: Yeah. Remember me this way, that one you know, my mom left her reservation and she moved to LA and like, you know, around 1970. And she met my dad out there. And you know, he didn't speak English. He was dinette. He's Navajo, so she, and he stuttered. And she felt bad for him. And so she wanted to, you know, help him navigate around the city. And so that's how I came to be. So I like to joke around people with people and say, that is my creation story. But you know, but over the years, you know, she left him when I was seven, because of his drinking problem. And later on, she started drinking, and you know, eventually she passed away from it. And so you know, but she was a loving person, you know, she was very loving, very affectionate, and she you know, really showed me how to be compassionate. And she was a giving, caring person. And, you know, so that's this piece right here, you know, it's personal for me, because, you know, the title says it all. Remember me this way, and that's how I choose to remember her.

Paul Gowder: I love that. Now, this one, this blew me away. I love the name of it. And just the expression is awesome. Tell me a little bit more about this one.

Avis Charley: When prayers hit, yes. This was actually my first oil painting when I was at Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. I went, you know, I originally went to school for Business Administration, I was in the casino business. And then when I did it, 360, and you know, got my BFA. I was you know, as an older student, I was so hard on myself. I put so much pressure on myself. And I remember my last two semesters there, you know, I just worked all the time. And so once I finished my senior project, and wrote my thesis, and got that out of the way, I just wanted to paint for fun, and just you know think I was thinking about our humor. And so I started this painting in acrylic. And then because at my school, you weren't allowed to paint with oil, you know, they didn't have the ventilation for it. And so I started with acrylic, and then after I graduated and moved back home to California, and then I pulled it out, like a year later. And then I started I went over in oils, and I was just thinking about what this piece means to me? How it made me laugh, and I think about you know, as natives or humor, and I was thinking about the titles and you know, so then I didn't know when Paris hit it. It just, it hit me. And I started thinking about how everything had prayed for at that moment, everything was happening. And yeah, so then Santa Fe into market that year 2019. I thought well, let me just enter it just for exposure so I can let you know, my collectors know that. You know, I'm also working on paintings, not just ledger art, and then here at one first place, and so nice surprise.

Paul Gowder: That's awesome. Hey, that one really struck me. And this one, I just love the colors of this one.

Avis Charley: Yes, this is actually my favorite painting and it's big. This one's an oil has a textured canvas. And so with this one I started thinking about like, what are my passions? You know, what am I passionate about? You know, I love beadwork. I love jewelry, I love beadwork. My close friends are our beaters. And then I also started thinking about my graffiti roots. And I started thinking about well, how can I combine these two? And you know, I was experimenting. So I thought well, let me you know, take some beadwork designs and add some graffiti elements to them such as you know, shadow and light and, and I was like let me try to make them pop out like 3d ish. I had fun with this one.

Paul Gowder: That's cool. The realism in some of your photos is really awesome. I mean, this one, you know, this is a scene we see all the time at Pow Wow.

Avis Charley: Changing lanes, that is oil and textured Canvas. So I took sand from Long Beach and white sand from New Mexico and applied it to canvas with matte medium. Just to, I wish I guess I was trying to recreate that Southern California aesthetic with the stucco buildings. The kind of use of spray paint on us 13 years old. It that with this canvas and then this is my favorite jingle dress dancer Mallory oaks. Yeah, so we worked. I told her about my ideas, and she agreed and so we met up and yeah, so she was up my model for a couple of my paintings to my paintings. And yeah, so this was titled changing lanes. What you know, we're a dancers getting ready, you know, to for granted treat but also, you know, start thinking about the beadwork and the leggings and how you know, it's lane stitching.

Paul Gowder: Right. So you talked about, you were just in residency, are you still in your own your artist in residency?

Avis Charley: Yes, I am doing back to back residencies, went to South Dakota last year. And then, I mean, last month and then this month I'm in Santa Fe, New Mexico with IIA with the residency currently.

Paul Gowder: Yeah. And you mentioned that, you know, you made the switch from casino management, business management into art. This has been such a hard time on Native artists. How has you know, this experience, this last couple of years been for you is trying to establish yourself as an artist?

Avis Charley: Well, once I graduated in 20, well, you have to let your artists for the past, probably about the past 11 years ledger artists, and when I first started creating ledger art, there was about two or three other women doing it. And so it was very popular, when I would do art shows I would go out. And so I didn't really push myself as the artists or grow as artists, because you know, I was constantly you know, it was constantly selling. And so when I went back to school, I was ready, you know, I was ready to push myself finally, and I was ready to you know, and I was also you know, doing, I was doing ledger part time too. And so when I went back to school, I was so focused, and of course, I was older, so it was very serious. And once I graduated, everything just started happening, like full speed, like just opportunity after opportunity. And it was just a momentum that's still going now. And surprisingly during last year, during 2020, during quarantine, I was busier than ever, because I started working with a lot of nonprofit organizations, which was a surprise to me. I guess my work, it talks to them, it speaks for them. And so I had a lot of contracts, several contracts with different organizations talking about, you know, well started with MMIW before COVID, and then went on to, you know, masking up staying home, getting vaccinated. And you know, those are causes that I really, and voting was a big one too. And those are causes I believe in and you know, so yeah. And yeah, so it's been going so you know, so yeah, just, you know, doing the work and doing the work staying consistent. And so yeah, so it's been great.

Paul Gowder: Awesome. And you know, with the prevalence of the internet and the creator economy, and now you know, they're calling us to great resignation, everybody's leaving their jobs, lots of people are looking to find, whether it's you know, if they're, like, you've been, you know, part time artists, and maybe they're looking to do more of it, or they've always had a passion they're looking to get in it. So for these people that are listening today and looking at you, what do you tell people that are looking to kind of pursue this as a career?

Avis Charley: I would say, make sure you have the right mindset. Like I said, you know, you know, I was like a half assed artists for the past 10 years, because I took it for granted. And so, you know, just growing and evolving as a person when I went back the second time, you know, I was, like I said, I was focused, and I just had the right mindset. And you know, and I put myself out there, and I utilized all the resources available to me that I provided. And yeah, so that would be my number one advice is have the right mindset, but then also you know, it's about you know, what are your intentions, you know, like, you know, why are you artists, you know, what do you, what's important to you, and that takes a while to find out as an artist. I would just say, just start creating work, you know, whatever it is you like to do start drawing, start painting, you know, start, you know, beating, you know, just start. So that's the number one advice I would give is, just start.

Paul Gowder: That's great advice. I tell people the same thing, when they're asking me about you know, how to go live or how to do these internet videos, just do it, just start, there might not be good for a while, but it's okay.

Avis Charley: And don't be afraid to fail. Like, don't go you have to embrace being embarrassed, you know, you have to embrace that. Because, you know, it's all about balance, because there's going to be good that comes from that. You know, like I look at I cringe when I look at some of my early ledger art or my you know, I look at it, I'm like, Oh my gosh, but look, you know, I was you know, consistent and persistent. And I wasn't afraid to put myself out there and go to art shows and put up my work and share it. And see 10 years ago, social media wasn't exactly what it is now. So but had it been I mean, you know, even I look at older posts, you know, I was like, wow, but yeah, so just stay persistent. Stay consistent.

Paul Gowder: Awesome. And so where in the next few months or is there any place we can go and check you out? Are you going to be at any of the shows Pow Wows or anything coming up?

Avis Charley: What month are we in? We're in November, so this presidency lasts through December. And I have a show in a few weeks here in Santa Fe with SwaIIow winter market. Yeah, then the next few months I'll be in March. I'll be in Phoenix at the Heard Museum there Indian market they have every March is the first week end of March, I'll be there. And then on getting the next start, like you know, like there's a power trail but then for artists there's art trail. So then I'll go from, you know the Heard Museum, to Idol Joerg. And then yeah, I didn't have like shows, smaller shows in between.

Paul Gowder: Awesome. Well, that's great. So I will make sure I'll put links to your Instagram and your Facebook and your website. I know you got some things up for sale on your website. And definitely everybody go check out her Instagram and follow you there to see when, even some new stuff comes out. Well, thank you for spending time with me. It's great hearing some of the stories behind the art and I love following and I'm gonna have to pick up some of your ledger art eventually. I need some more, more stuff up here on the wall. So thank you for spending time with me. I appreciate it.

Avis Charley: Thank you for having me, I appreciate it.

Paul Gowder: As promised during the episode, here is your bonus code for this week's Pendleton giveaway. Head over to www.powwows.com/win to enter to win one of five Pendleton blankets being given away at the end of the month. This week's bonus code is 50678, that's 50678. www.powwows.com/win and that'll get you some extra entries only for the listeners of this podcast episode. Now, here's this week's trivia question sponsored by our supporters over at Patreon. Thanks guys, again for supporting www.powwows.com with your contributions on our Patreon. If you're interested, learn more at www.powwows.com. Alright, here is this week's question. As of today, how many federally recognized tribes are there in the United States? Should be able to find that out with a quick Google, but maybe you know just offhand. Let's see who can figure that out. Head over to powwowlife.com, use the form there to enter the contest. And I'll draw from all the correct winners. And the winner will get a prize pack from www.powwows.com including some stickers and other goodies. Good luck. Thank you so much again for listening to the podcast. I really appreciate you being here each week and I hope you're enjoying these interviews. If you have an idea for the show, I'd love to hear about it. Write me at [email protected]. Thanks again, and I will see you soon.

PODCAST OUTRO: Thanks for listening to the Pow Wow Life podcast from www.powwows.com. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get notified of our next episode. Find a Pow Wow near you by visiting www.powwows.com/calendar, supportpowwows.com by visiting www.powwownation.com.

Last Updated on February 16, 2024 by Paul G

About Paul G

Paul G is the founder PowWows.com, who wears many hats as a business coach, photographer, and collector of quirky shirts. Paul started PowWows.com in 1996 while pursuing his graduate degree. With a passion for travel, he and his family hav  traveled the world, capturing unforgettable memories and photos. When he's not coaching or clicking, he's indulging in the magic of Disney.

One Comment “Avis Charley Ledger Artist – Pow Wow Life 57”

  • Avatar for J. Muro (Chiricahua Apache)

    J. Muro (Chiricahua Apache)


    Thank-you so much for the transcripts, it helps so much to read it. Keep bringing more, please.

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