Creating and making art was part of Blackfoot conceptual artist Sikapinakii Low Horn’s upbringing.
“We weren't wealthy, but my mom would always try and keep me busy. She was supportive and would get me really cheap art supplies,” says Sikapinakii.
Sikapinakii's goal as a kid was to go to Alberta University of the Arts and in 2019, they graduated with a bachelors of fine arts in drawing.
“I took my time going through school and I developed a good sense of what I thought my art was going to be,” says Sikapinakii. “At some point when I was in my undergrad, I hated the idea that ‘I'm indigenous, so I have to make indigenous art.’ But towards the end of my undergrad, I realized that I can make Indigenous art, but in my own way, that isn't exactly Indigenous. That is when I started to learn my own language. I spoke to my grandparents and my older relatives to understand language more and started to incorporate it into the work.”
As a two-spirited artist from the Siksika First Nation, much of Sikapinakii’s early art focuses on ideas and thought provoking abstractions that blend modern zine style text art with old Indigenous photography and imagery.
“I kind of fell in love with text-based art, because it is a more forward type of medium that people could understand other than like visual art,” says Sikapinakii. “There is a lot of miscommunication with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. So text is a great way to get ideas across and it was successful. Also, I started to use the relationship/dynamics between English and Blackfoot language.”
Sikapinakii doesn’t see a separation between them self and their work.
“As an artist, my goal is to be fluent in Blackfoot but also convey the current issues and subjects that have happened and are happening within my community.”
Some of their more recent work feature brilliantly coloured graphic fancy and grass dancers figures. These images are reminiscent of pop-art and are iconically interesting. Sikapinakii also works in photography and recently has joined the Rockies Repeat roster of artists who are repainting images that Catharine Robb Whyte did over a century ago in effort to raise awareness about climate change.
Sikapinakii, who has only been openly two-spirit in the last year-and-a-half, is working on a self-portrait project.
“I am using different gazes. For some I portray myself as more feminine, for others more masculine, but using the idea that when you're looking at a piece of artwork, it is looking at you – so I’m also working with the gaze of the piece,” says Sikapinakii, who has always be very conscious of the white gaze on Indigenous people.
Sikapinakii is also looking at the gaze within Indigenous communities.
“I'm still exploring what it's like to be two-spirited and especially being two-spirited in ceremony,” says Sikapiniakki. “How Indigenous people view genders now is definitely influenced by colonization. I think there is a lot of 'unpacking' that needs to happen. There are a lot of two-spirited people who are in the ceremony because it is our spiritual way to connect with the creator as Blackfoot people. But at the same time, there are different roles that these cisgenders have in, per say, a Sundance.”
Since Sikapinakii doesn’t separate themselves with their art, this examination is part of their process.
“There are certain roles that a two-spirited person does have in ceremony, but, there's definitely more responsibilities when you come off as either male or female. I wouldn't say things need to change, but I think communities need to look at the colonized influence. When I speak about it in my art, as a two-spirited person, I would love to take on the responsibilities that a male would would have in ceremony, because they fit who I am more.”