“We wanted to bring the experience of a quality show back home for our children to see.” If one spends any time at all with Whitethorne, he or she realizes the artist’s dedication to children. Whitethorne has given his time to youth, going into classrooms, teaching workshops. “Children like to ask questions. They will stand and watch me work.” He tells youth that anything they want to do, if they work at it, it will be theirs.
These days, Native American artists are accepted as artists in their own standing—not just in the Native American art exhibits, Whitethorne said. “We have gained respect and credibility as artists. We can stand alone without depending on someone else to manage and market our work.”
Whitethorne has written and illustrated several books, and will soon release another, Father’s Boots. It is, he said, the stories of his grandmother. “It’s about a man who realized the importance of the long, boring stories his grandmother tells and how he makes those stories his own.” It is, he says, a story about positive self-esteem. “If our youth tell these stories, they become their stories and they feel good about that.”
Listening, one understands that all of the stories Whitethorne has written were learned at his own grandmother’s knee and he has indeed made them his own, not only in the written word, but through his beautiful, kaleidoscopic paintings. Not stopping there, he has passed them on so that we the reader can make them ours.
Although he has indeed become well recognized outside of Native American circles, Whitethorne strives to remain that ordinary man. Where people try to draw him into the limelight, to support this cause or that, he has remained neutral. “I try not to get involved in political issues—I remain an artist. The way I’ve dealt with this is to stay real—real with my community and real with my family. I know who I am and where I am from.”
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