Native American artist Yatika Starr Fields creates vibrant masterpieces complete with symbolism and cultural aesthetic that are meant to tell multiple stories at once.
Fields was born in Tulsa but grew up in Stillwater in an artistic household. Both of his parents, Tom and Anita, were artists. This led to him experiencing creativity early on in his life and having exposure to art shows and exhibits. It ultimately led to his desire to bring attention to his culture.
“It was always part of my life and how I interacted with the world,” he says. “It was something I enjoyed doing at a young age…it was nurtured and fostered. By middle school, I was drawing and entering contests. By high school, I was painting and winning national awards.”
At 19, Fields, attending the Boston Institute of Art, was selected to be the United States ambassador for young Indigenous artists at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Malaysia. At this point in his life, he realized what he needed to do with his art and the message he wanted to convey.
“When I was working with artists from the Pacific Rim, I realized what I needed to do to become the artist I wanted to be,” he says. “It really woke me up, and I put more effort into being the artist I sought to be.”
Fields is primarily a studio artist who works on canvas but he’s also a muralist. He’s selective about the murals he chooses to work on because it has to be meaningful to him, represent his mission as an artist and emphasize community.
As for his mission, it goes back to advocating for new thinking, being more mindful of artists of color, making space for them and telling the history of Native American people.
Tulsa Artist Fellowship
Opportunities have taken Fields across the globe, and he’s thankful for them – but he says there truly is no place like home. That is why he’s been with the Tulsa Artist Fellowship for the last five years.
“I do feel drawn to [Tulsa],” he explains. “I’m Cherokee, Osage and Muscogee Creek, and this place is an intersection of all those tribes. I have vast lineage here, so it is home. It’s culturally home, it’s intrinsically home, it’s home for a lot of reasons. I’ve traveled all over the world, and places don’t make you happy, home makes you happy. I’m native, and natives have a strong tie to land, community and family, and without that, half of you is gone.”
Tulsa Artist Fellowship allows artists of different cultural backgrounds to converge in one place and supports them through their creative process. Recipients receive a stipend, housing and studio space to produce their artwork.
“The last few years, my work has been focused on the Native and Indigenous communities specifically in Tulsa and advocating space [and education] for Native artists,” he says. “There are no fundamental spaces or programs that cater to the advancement and enrichment, history and knowledge of Native American art in Oklahoma. And there needs to be.”