I knew by choosing art school I was following my heart rather than my head, Julie Buffalohead recalls. However, rather than discredit the emotions, she sees that college experience as part of a wider continuum: In school everyone had an influence on you . . . you were being taught by other students as well as professors. Coming from a family of college professors, I always knew I would teach in some way or another.
Buffalohead sees her current work as part of storytelling, especially as she re-examines her own Native American traditions. At the same time, she works in the public schools, where storytelling is often a virtue. There was a time I demanded to be seen as an artist first. I sought a broader audience. After working with elementary students and going to grad school [her MFA is from Cornell, 2001], I changed my view of my Native heritage; I began utilizing concrete materials, tribal history, Native stories and myths, to convey feelings and understanding.
Buffalohead is a member of the Ponca tribe, based in Oklahoma; her embrace of her heritage, however, isnt stylistically traditional. In canvases or prints with much empty space, she conjures odd scenarios of animal-headed people having meals, walking their pets, or playing in a sandbox. Its witty anthropomorphism without the cartooniness as she explained to The Cornell Journal, I try to be provocative. I use stereotypes because Indians didn't have a hand in creating them. It's my way of saying, 'This is not who we are. This is your invention'".