The Uncommon Practice of Raven Halfmoon

Raven Halfmoon’s work is hard to miss.

Her imposing sculptures purposefully take up space, the clay often shaped into humanistic forms and baked into neutral earth tones cut with searing splashes of red, each with echoes of her Caddo Nation citizenship.

The Oklahoma-based, nationally-acclaimed sculptor recently completed an artist in residence program at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts where she worked on new pieces and participated in museum programming throughout the fall. 

“Raven Halfmoon’s work explores identity and inclusivity, and she is an important voice in contemporary American art,” AMFA Executive Director Dr. Victoria Ramirez says, noting that during her residency, Halfmoon spent time “sharing her practice, sparking important conversations and inspiring the next generation.”

Soirée sat down with Halfmoon to talk contemporary heritage, her time in Arkansas and her latest artwork acquired for the AMFA Foundation Collection.

 

Let’s begin with your time at the University of Arkansas. You not only got a degree in ceramics/painting, but also in cultural anthropology, which you’ve noted played a big role in discovering your identity. What did you find on that journey?

RH: I found my voice — where I fit in the art world and in the world in general. I combined painting and clay during that time, as well as taking anthropology classes. It all combined into what my practice is now. 

A recurring element in your work is the merging of Caddo legacy with contemporary culture, emphasizing that heritage is not just history. Why is that message so important for you to share?

RH: Because I am Caddo, and my tribal nation has a long history. It’s important for me to share that history and for me to practice it, but to push it forward into the present and future because we are a contemporary, living people.

With sculptures as big as yours, logistics alone must play a huge role in a finished display. Can you describe your process of construction and installation?

RH: The process starts with a sketch, and then I order clay or other materials. From there, it’s hiring help and assistants depending on how big the piece is. Then I usually have to go to a site-specific residency to make work of that caliber. Once the piece is built, it involves figuring out the machinery needed to move, lift and hoist the work into a kiln. Once it is fired, I get a crane or pulley system to get the piece out onto a pallet or casters that can be crated and shipped out.

Tell us about the piece “Do You Practice Your Culture?” that AMFA acquired, and the new work you created during your residency.

RH: This piece was made at California State Long Beach. It was the first sculpture I created using the multiple eyes. The repeating eyes represent the multifaceted views that I try to manifest in my work — so not only my perspective, but my mother’s, my grandmother’s and so on. It was the biggest piece that I had made to date, and it was the first piece where I graffitied a sentence onto a sculpture. “Do you practice your culture” is a question I have been asked in my career as a Native American artist. For me, it is a tongue-in-cheek way to ask the question back to the audience. 

While at AMFA, I was inspired by seeing this piece again and decided to use it as a sketch for the newer pieces made while I was in Little Rock. My new pieces still have multiple eyes, but are glazed differently. There’s red glaze, white glaze and they are made on a black chocolate clay body.

Other than that particular question, what is a question you hope people leave with after experiencing your work?

RH: I would hope people leave interested in learning more about Caddo and Native history in general. I would also hope they had questions about other Indigenous artists and contemporary Native perspectives.

If you had to pick one piece that changed your life, what would it be?

RH: “Two Guns Arikara” by T.C. Cannon (Caddo/Kiowa) is a great piece, but I love all of T.C. Cannon’s work. I like how he paints the American Indian in a contemporary light. I like his color use. I like his figures. 

The reception for your residency at AMFA featured a playlist you curated. What was its vibe, and what were the must-listen tracks? 

RH: The vibe is a mix of things old and new, some I listen to when making in the studio and some remind me of family. Must-listen is Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love.” It’s a classic and that band is Native American. Also, Prince is another must-listen — for obvious reasons. As for contemporary, I like Dupa Lipa and Lil Nas X. I like a lot of different types of music!  

What was one piece you never got tired of seeing at AMFA?

RH: The Jun Kaneko ceramic sculpture is one I never got tired of seeing. I enjoy how large he makes and creates, and he was a big inspiration for “Do You Practice Your Culture?” that is in the AMFA collection.

What did you enjoy most about your time in Little Rock?

RH: I liked it so much! The people were great, I enjoyed using the River Trail, I liked that you could walk everywhere, I liked the restaurants and food. The music scene was also fun, and it was a gorgeous time to be there in the fall as all the leaves were changing. I love how supportive the city of Little Rock is of the arts community — outside sculptures, many galleries and even art walks — all great to see!

And perhaps most importantly, tell us about your dog.

RH: Teddy B is a baby grizzly bear, also known as a red Chow Chow. He is one year old, my loyal service dog and the light of my life. He especially loved the river walk and chasing squirrels on the AMFA lawn. He told me he especially loved the art walk and the AMFA art collection.

 

See her work: “Do You Practice Your Culture?” is currently on display in the Harriet and Warren Stephens Galleries at AMFA.


PHOTOGRAPHY
JASON MASTERS

HAIR & MAKEUP
LORI WENGER

CLOTHING
BARBARA/JEAN

SHOT ON LOCATION AT
ARKANSAS MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS


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