Alistair Bane

Meet Native Arts Artist-in-Residence Alistair Bane

Below is a Q&A with Alistair Bane about the work he did as a Native Arts Artist-in-Residence at the Denver Art Museum in July 2016.

Art is healing; it inspires confidence in oneself.

– Alistair Bane

Below is a Q&A with Alistair Bane about the work he did as a Native Arts Artist-in-Residence at the Denver Art Museum in July 2016.

Cassidy Schultz: What genre of dance is your piece connected to and what’s your relationship/history to it?

Alistair Bane: The men’s straight dance, which is a Southern Plains dance. My tribe is Shawnee, but we moved to Oklahoma and learned dances from the Southern Plains tribes. I started dancing in my 30s.

CS: What role does your piece play in the type of dance it’s for/connected with?

AB: I will make a full dance set, but every part of the set for Southern Straight Dance has purpose, is integral to the meaning of the dance itself. There’s a template of sorts for Southern Straight, but the colors and patterns really speak to the personality of the dancer.

Shawnee dress made by Alistair Bane
Shawnee dress. Photo courtesy of the artist.

CS: What drew you to this form of art?

AB: First, I learned to dance then I made my own set. I love learning and I’ve had teachers from various tribes who have given me the tools and techniques for each part of a set. My work is Shawnee but I’ve learned from so many different people.

CS: What can visitors expect during your time at the DAM?

AB: I will be creating ribbon work and the apron for a Men’s Straight Dance set, the rest of which I plan to finish by September. I’m very excited to have a studio space where I can connect and share with people.

CS: What’s one thing you’d like to tell people about your art?

AB: Art is healing; it inspires confidence in oneself. Whatever you feel or think when you’re creating, you stitch that into the work. Our art is tied to how we should live a native people, as an artist I want to bring something positive to our people.

CS: Is there a part of your work that is particularly meaningful to you?

AB: One of the most appealing parts of Native art, for me, is the technical challenge. There is a kind of devotion in detailed work and working on someone’s dancewear is looking out for their well-being.

CS: Would you tell us about your creative process?

AB: The ribbon work is cut-and-fold layers, which I sew together by machine. The patterns are from my tribe.

CS: What inspires/motivates you?

AB: The positivity that I can bring–for myself and my people–through my art and dance. My father inspires me as well and he supported my art from an early age.

CS: How did you learn to create this kind of art? Was it passed down or did you learn on your own?

AB: When someone begins dancing there is a big dinner and the community provides their new dancewear, but I didn’t have that. I had to make my own dance set. I reached out to artists I admired, offered to help in their work and they taught me their technique. My teachers were from outside my tribe so I did research in the Smithsonian Institution to find old Shawnee pieces and patterns; it was sort of reverse engineering, learning the art first and then finding my inspiration.

Cassidy Schultz is an intern in the studio and artists program at the Denver Art Museum. Cassidy has been at the DAM since 2016 and her favorite artwork on view here is American Grasslands: Crop, Lawn, Pasture, and Prairie (1996-98) by Karen E. Kitchel.