verna bates
verna bates
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cherokee artist verna bates
I am a Cherokee artist from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. I specialize in Gourd Art, but create in other mediums, as well.

I have worked in the arts for over 19 years and am still amazed that I have been Blessed in the ability to create art that others appreciate.  I feel humbled each time someone expresses their desire to purchase a piece of my work.

I began making gourd art many years ago and in time, added acrylic paintings, jewelry, small woven baskets that never set quite as straight as I'd like, or as they should.  In the last months I have added yet another medium... Clay... pottery... clay anything!!  I have created beautiful clay effigy pipes, pots, bowls, turtles, ornaments, wall hangings, even making my own clay pottery stamps.  Warning!  Clay is addictive! 

I am almost 63 years old.  Most folks my age have either already retired or are in the planning stages.  My plan is to continue making art until somebody sternly tells me that both my mind and hands are too shaky to make good art any more.  I plan to create new pieces until my imagination can't imagine any longer...either that or I'll just tell everyone that my new art form is “abstract”.

When creating my art, I make every effort to incorporate something from the Cherokee culture, history, myths, legends or language.  I wood burn designs and images onto some of the gourds.  Using acrylic paint, I add the Cherokee syllabary, Cherokee words, ancient designs, scenes, etc. onto some.  I accent  with leather, wild turkey feathers, glass beads (which back in the day were considered “trade items”), bone, horse hair, fur and other items that might have been utilized back in the day when masks were commonly used. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you were uncomfortable and intentional or not, you snickered, giggled or even laughed out loud, which in turn made you feel more relaxed or maybe it relieved some of the stress or lightened the moment?
gourd artist verna bates
Back in the day when the Natives were first exposed to the Europeans, they were not treated kindly at all and often times were abused.  Secretly, masks were made from gourds, wood, hornet's nests, hides, etc. and were often used to mock or mimic someone who had ridiculed or been cruel to the Natives.  In the privacy of the Native's homes or in a group gathering, the masks would be worn.  Maybe the Natives felt they had regained some of their self respect by showing their peers that they weren't afraid of the strangers.  Some of the masks were called “Booger Masks”.
This type of mask was worn by several male members who dressed in disguise and would loudly disrupt a gathering when they performed the “Booger Dance”.  Everyone at the gathering knew there would be “Booger Dancers” making an appearance, yet the audience pretended they didn't know the identities and “played along”. 

Some of the masks made might have had an exaggerated nose, big ears, crooked mouth or other physical abnormalities.  Other types of masks were special made and used in ceremonies and official gatherings or special dances held during certain seasons of the year. 
I, myself do not make “Booger Masks”.  I refer to my creations as “Cherokee Masks” because I want to stress clearly who I am, what I am and I want desperately to share my history and culture with all who want to learn.  There is always a story behind each piece that I make.

When folks visit my personal studio or my booth at an art market, I have the pleasure of telling my stories for each piece of art that interests the visitor. If that person leaves my booth without making a purchase, they still leave with some new knowledge of  Cherokee history and culture.  But if that person chooses to make a purchase, they not only take a piece of Cherokee art with them, but they also take with them a good deal of information regarding Cherokee history and culture. I feel that my art is an educational tool and can make learning more exciting and interesting as well. Inspiring a new artist to make art would be frosting on the cake.

My two youngest grandsons, ages 8 and 10 years old have entered the Holiday Art Show in Tahlequah, OK in the youth category and have since the youngest was just 3 years old.  I also enter that same art show but in the adult division.  There's nothing that can equal the pride that I feel as a grandmother and artist knowing that my grandchildren are following in my footsteps.  Especially, when they both earned their very first awards in 2012.  My heart swelled with happiness as each name was called and they walked across the stage to collect those coveted ribbons.  I cried with joy.....Verna Bates
Some Personal Photos
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Primary Category and Mediums
  • Gourd Art/Gourd Masks: Wood burning, Etching and/or Acrylic paint
  • Paintings: Acrylic
  • Jewelry: Etched shell pendants.  Hand-strung necklaces made with glass beads, turquoise, pearls, coral, abalone shell, & other stones.  Earrings.  Sterling findings.



  • Paintings: 3rd Place: “Wish I Had Wings” in Cherokee National Holiday Art Show 2007
  • Diverse Arts: Judge's Choice Award: “Let's Boogie!” in Cherokee National Holiday Art Show 2008
  • Cultural Arts: 1st Place: “The Hunter” in Art Under The Oaks Art Show 2010
  • Paintings: Southeastern Wildlife Award: “The Babysitter” in Five Civilized Tribes Art Show 2010
  • Paintings: Honorable Mention: “Bits And Pieces” in Five Civilized Tribes Art Show 2010
  • Cultural Arts: 3rd Place: “Believes In Tradition” mask in Art Under The Oaks Art Show 2011
  • Paintings: Honorable Mention: “Uktena In Flight” in Trail of Tears Art Show, Tahlequah, OK 2011
  • Paintings: 2nd Place: “The Courtship” in Five Civilized Tribes Art Show, 2012
  • Traditional Arts: Judge's Choice Award: “I See Little People” in Homecoming Art Show, Tahlequah, OK 2012
  • Cultural: 3rd Place: “Half Cherokee” mask in Art Under The Oaks Art Show, 2013
  • Paintings: Honorable Mention: “Sharing Secrets” in Art Under the Oaks Art Show, Five Civilized Tribes Museum 2013
  • Jewelry: “Gift From Mother Earth” in Homecoming Art Show, Tahlequah,OK 2013

_Art Shows

  • Trail of Tears Art Show, Tahlequah, OK; 
  • Homecoming Art Show, Tahlequah, OK;
  • Cherokee National Holiday Art Show, Tahlequah, OK;
  • Art of Living, Tahlequah, OK;
  • Art Under The Oaks, Muskogee, OK;
  • Cherokee Art Market, Catoosa, OK;
  • Cherokee Christmas Art Show at Gourds, Etc. Cherokee Art Studio, Locust Grove, OK.
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