SHAWNEE, Okla. (KFOR) – She tried before to escape history.
As a young teenager, Amber Duboise Shepherd turned away from it, trying to fit in more than take flight.
“I kind of distanced myself in high school,” she admits. “I went through that phase.”
This space was her playroom, then complete with TV, couch and computer gaming system.
“My brother and I would play video games and be loud in here,” she smiles.
It’s much quieter now as her painting studio.
The house she grew up in, an old den filled with natural light, now invites Shepherd to sit and ponder her own life and a past filled with meaning.
“Painting and drawing. That’s my thing.”
Amber’s mother is Navajo.
Her father’s tribal heritage is Potawatomi and Sac and Fox.
Duboise’s maiden name calls back the French traders who first explored here.
“I just grew up in my culture,” she says.
One of her earliest memories comes from a Navajo sand painting ceremony.
“I remember the chanting,” she says. “I remember the medicine man was there.”
Over time, mixing bright colors and using the people she knew as her models, the unique culture she grew up in stepped forward through her hands whether she wanted it to or not.
Shepherd says, “Sometimes I don’t even notice till later, and I’m like, ‘I didn’t realize I added that in there.'”
Her paintings are set in modern times, but spirits from the past often occupy them too.
Describing one of her latest paintings, Shepherd says, “There’s two people, a spirit and a Navajo grandpa, and they’re eating breakfast. I added Spam and Tabasco sauce, and a blue kettle because that’s how my grandma makes her coffee.”
As a young artist, Amber still wrestles with her own style, trying not to get trapped in the past, but respecting it enough to satisfy the spirits who, she feels, are always looking over her shoulder.
“I was always taught that it was very important to remember where you come from, who your family is and who you represent.”
Shepherd is one of two Spotlight Artists chosen for the 2021 Momentum Art Show.
For more information on the show and where you can see it, go to ovac101.wixsite.com/momentum2021.