Artist Profile: Elizabeth Morrison

posted on July 11, 2012

This profile is part of a series of interviews of local Lakota artists who have had their work featured in The Heritage Center, either through the summer art show or in the gift shop. We thank them for taking the time out to answer the following questions.

1. Talk a little bit about your childhood: where you grew up, where you went to school, what your interests were, etc.

I grew up in Oglala, South Dakota. I graduated 8th grade and 12th grade from Red Cloud School, wayyy back in 1982. I am married to Orin Morrison and we have four children at home. The rest are all grown up and living their lives.

2. Was art always a part of your life? When did you really begin to develop an interest in making art, and what people and/or events influenced you?

Art has always been a part of my life. Growing up here in the desolate beauty of our reservation, you can see the beauty all around us. Usually our first experience with art is being wrapped in a baby star quilt at birth. Then we receive such a quilt for each milestone throughout our lives; naming ceremonies, graduations, weddings, births, deaths…The star quilt plays a huge role in our lives.

My mother, Jessie Bear Robe, taught me how to make star quilts. I made my first one thousands of quilts ago. My inspiration comes from the different shades of colors available. I usually make a “lone star” quilt design, although I have been known to be really creative when I have the time. I recently finished a quilt that I am very proud of. It is red, with a flying doves pattern that I altered to create a quilt featuring flying eagles. The diamonds in this pattern are 1” x 1”, and the eight eagles are flying in a circle.

3. How do you think that your work and your approach to art have evolved over the years?

When I first started making quilts, I conformed to the basic lone star design. Now I can get really creative in the different shades of colors I put together, and the various patterns that my sisters and I have designed over the years. My greatest challenge is time and health. With my back problems, I find it harder and harder to be able to sit still long enough to get a quilt done in a timely manner. What used to take me hours to complete now takes days. But I am truly blessed that I have my daughters to help. They also know how to make quilts and they will help. I started selling my quilts and beadwork to The Heritage Center several years ago to make extra money.

4. Please describe the piece of your art that is your favorite, and explain why you feel this way.

My favorite piece of work is the Flying Eagle quilt. I was very lonesome one day, and my husband took me driving to help ease the hurt. As we approached the White River, I looked up into a tree and there were 8 eagles sitting there. I found comfort in this, and I designed this quilt to remind myself of that awesome day. Eight eagles…it was spectacular!! I would like to be able to design more elaborate quilts and to have the ability to see these projects out. My least favorite quilt was one I was trying to make. I was attempting to put the Denver Donkey ( :) ) logo on a quilt. I had high aspirations, but when I was done, it was downright ugly. So I put it away in my closet and it will remain there. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the Donkeys or because my artistic ability failed me. Maybe someday I will find out.