The Grand Prize went to Cherokee Nation artist Jerry Sutton for “Cultural Appropriation.” The mixed media piece features Michelangelo's iconic David statue dressed as a pre-contact Cherokee hunter in an ironic depiction of how European and Colonial cultures have appropriated from Indigenous cultures.

Jerry Sutton is an award winning Cherokee painter, photographer, and flute maker. His art has long detailed the life ways, lore, language and natural heritage of the Cherokee woodlands culture. His work ranges from realistic depictions of the wildlife and landscape of the Cherokee reservation, to playful juxtapositions of Cherokee culture with our Eurocentric popular culture.


First and foremost he is a painter who delights in the physical craft of painting. “Bob Ross had it right. Painting is joyful.”


For Sutton, 2020 was a year for reflection, for embracing core values and for identifying what is fundamental. 


He realized that all of the imagery he used in his work, the storytelling, the historical depictions, the layers of cultural and metaphorical meaning, were all important artistic pursuits, but were all devices he had been using as frameworks on which to explore painterly brushwork and color harmonies, the two things that consistently brought him that spark of joy when painting. Sutton has distilled his process to the essentials, a brush, some “smearable color, and some place to smear it.”


“It doesn’t get any purer than that. Art, to be art must be evocative, must move people, whether cerebrally or emotionally. Right now I need to paint emotion. I want to personally be moved by the colors I put on the canvas, and hopefully, move others in their turn. But above all, I want my art to be beautiful. I am weary of the ugly in our world.”


A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Sutton is a graduate of Northeastern Oklahoma University (BA Art, 1976). His work is in private, corporate, and tribal collections. He is represented by the Spider Gallery, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.


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