Lillian Pitt’s Early Years as an Artist

Lillian’s early years as an artist revolved around a search for her identity and a focus for her art. She was not clear as a young artist what her art would be about. And, it wasn’t until she was already grown and started learning about her culture, that her art took focus. It began when an elder took her to see the rock carvings along the Columbia River, near to where she lived.

My early years as an artist involved learning about my heritage.

We didn’t talk much about my ancestors when I was growing up, because my father thought I could have a better life if I wasn’t so Indian. So in my early years as an artist, I didn’t really know all that much about the traditional arts of my people. I wasn’t even all that sure as to whether or not I wanted to be an “Indian” artist or just an artist.

But then an elder took me to see the rock carvings and paintings created thousands of years ago by my ancestors, and I was hooked.  I couldn’t get over how interesting these rock images were.

So since those early years as an artist, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about my ancestors and studying the designs that they created. I learned everything I could about their rock carvings, their baskets, beaded bags, dresses, the tools they used. You name it, I’ve tried to learn about it all.

But there’s so much.  I don’t think I could ever learn about 10,000 years of history in just one lifetime.

Still, my goal is to incorporate as best I can, the traditional Native American arts of my ancestors into the contemporary art that I create. Regardless of the medium, and ever since my early years as an artist, my work directly relates to and honors my ancestors, the environment, and the animals.

—Lillian Pitt

Learn More: Starting from the Early Years as an Artist

Learn more about Lillian Pitt, her family, and how she became an artist: