Jessica Clark is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of NC. She earned a Bachelor of Art in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Jessica has exhibited in numerous shows in the Southeast, and her work is included in numerous private collections along with the Museum of the Southeast American Indian, Savannah College of Art and Design- Lacoste, France, the Federal Reserve Bank in Charlotte and the NoVo Foundation. Her work concentrates on documenting, preserving and educating her viewers on Southeastern Native American identity. She was profiled in the Winter 2014 and 2015/16 issue of First American Art Magazine, named a ‘2014 Woman to Watch’ at the Eighth Annual Conference of American Indian Women of Proud Nations, is a 2015 Joan Mitchell Visual Arts Scholar and a 2016 GOLDEN Educator Resident. She has a son in the US Army and currently teaches Visual Arts in Santa Fe, NM.
I document and preserve the everyday life of Southeastern native peoples using personal snapshots and photographs as a source. My work consists of paintings, drawings, lithographs and photographs and, as a Lumbee native, are from my perspective. We, the Lumbee, are a version of the Postmodern Native, a combination of European, African and Indigenous ancestry. We intermixed with other tribes and settlers, retained our cultural identity and assimilated into European culture to survive, not succumbing to the meta-narrative of the Native American. Our daily lives bear witness to these tactics and are subjects for my work: we have various physical features, host powwows, attend Christian churches, have lived in the same area for the last 10,000 years (not a reservation), speak with a distinct Southern drawl and identify as Native American.
The act of creating allows meditation on the narrative and process, escaping to the moment the photograph was shot, becoming overcome by the emotions, sounds, and stories associated with each subject. The large format and vibrant colors of the paintings reflect the vitality of contemporary Native culture and identity, creating monuments to a people who have persevered in the face of oppression and the appeal of assimilation.
The subjects of my works include landscapes, the Lumbee River, Lumbee pinecone patchwork and portraits of Lumbee people as well as members of other Southeastern tribes. The landscapes and pinecone patchwork convey our relationship to the land and the importance of our history. The Lumbee River has been a source of refuge for our people for thousands of years, providing life and also taking it away. Living along the river and among the pines, we are often referred to as ‘The People of the Pines.’ The pinecone patchwork, inspired by the longleaf pinecone, is only worn by the Lumbee on their regalia but it can be seen in jewelry, clothing design and art.