A 2014 Hayward High School alumnus, Anangookwe Elizabeth Wolf, has something in common with newly appointed 23rd national Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, the first Native American poet to be chosen for that post.
Besides being tribal members and artists, both Wolf and Harjo spent time at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Wolf graduated from the institute May 18 and Harjo was a high school student there.
Wolf has her own noteworthy achievements. In June 2018, she became just the second recipient of the Allan Houser Scholarship (the first was given in 2015), named after one of the 20th’s century most famed sculptors and a member of the Apache tribe.
She is also a Cobell and Site Scholar.
Wolf recently graduated with a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree in studio arts and jewelry.
Even though she is a jeweler, she demonstrated her versatility by working in textiles for her senior project.
“I did not get a degree in that (textiles), but I’ve always enjoyed weaving and sewing,” she said.
Wolf is a member of Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. She moved with her mother to the Hayward area when she was age 4. She attended the former Stone Lake Elementary School and finished high school in Hayward. While a student, she was a member of the art club.
“I’ve always had an interest in art and in music, so that’s why I decided to get my BFA and eventually a master’s in art history and curation,” she said.
Hayward art teacher Kelly Eggers left a favorable impression on Wolf.
“I love her,” she said. “She is the best. She is the person who got me into jewelry, which was my main study at IAIA.”
At the art institute, Wolf found an interesting mix of people from more than 60 tribes, the majority being from the Southwest.
“I knew a lot about my culture and myself, but it was interesting going to an indigenous-focused school and meeting students of other tribal backgrounds and students from different countries,” she said.
She not only found pleasure in learning about other tribal cultures, but also in being exposed to a large art community in Santa Fe, an area that has a reputation as an art mecca for both artists and collectors.
“There are great opportunities here with lots of connections and tons and tons of galleries,” she said of Santa Fe. “I usually hop around galleries and talk with people and meet other artists and make connections.”
Wolf has had her work displayed in galleries there, including Site Santa Fe, and will be part of an upcoming show at form & concept (lowercase spelling).
Her plans include taking one or two years off and then focusing on a residency for graduate school.
“Most art students don’t go to grad school unless they want to be a teacher or, in my case, I want to be a curator,” she said. “The programs want to see experience on your resumé, so you can’t just immediately apply after you get a BFA. It’s going to take time to apply for residencies and get to know artists around here and just keep creating work.”
She currently works from a studio offered by a community effort called Vital Space, but she and a friend have been accepted into a new living/studio space that she is very excited about.
Wolf talked about the jewelry she creates.
“It’s a mix of traditional and contemporary,” she said. “I use traditional forms of media like beads and Indian-tanned leather and incorporate that with metalsmithing. Some of my work has been abstract and at other times it can be simple-modern but with a nice refreshing twist.”
She describes her textile work as “narrative based.”
“They are based on narratives within my family,” she said, “stories of people I’ve never met, but I’ve been told about. My whole senior project was focused on my great grandmothers and the boarding schools. I recreated their boarding school uniforms and had them be reversible, so the inside was all traditional regalia. I like to interweave personal stories in my textiles and to present that to the public to create interest in their own histories and how intergenerational trauma is passed on and how we can work through that.”
Her grandmother Wolf was Ojibwe so the textile work on the senior project featured Ojibwe flora-style beadwork and Venetian trade beads she picked up in Venice, Italy, last winter. For her other grandmother, who is from the Assiniboine Tribe, a plains tribe of the Montana area, the dress featured Assiniboine patchwork and dentalium shells (a shell from the Northwest historically used for trade).
Wolf hasn’t been back to the Hayward area in over a year, but was excited to learn the second Northern Woodland Indian Art Show & Market was being held June 28-30 at the Sevenwinds Casino Conference Room, featuring Native American artists from around the region.
She expressed an interest in participating in the art show in the future.