Hollis Chitto is quickly becoming known for his precise, dazzling beaded jewelry and bags as museum shows and publications like Vogue Magazine are recognizing and sharing his talent.
“My interest in art began when at an early age. I’m told my grandmother was a beadworker. Although she died when I was very young, many people believe her talent was passed down to me. But I first started doing quillwork. I taught myself by looking at illustrations in a French Canadian book, and experimenting with beads and quills that my mom had used to try to teach herself this skill. The two art forms’ techniques are actually related: the two-needle band in quillwork is similar to the beadwork’s lazy stitch. People often say that beadwork takes patience, but I don’t see it that way. It’s like coloring to me; I see the designs and colors become reality in my hands. I never think of beadwork or quillwork as craft, but as fine art.”
All of Chitto’s works are fully functional but many express a personal narrative or explore social issues in Native communities. “I’ve worked on a couple projects that talk about ideas of queerness and being two-spirit,” he told First American Art Magazine. A recent beaded bag, titled “Bloodwork 2,” for an exhibit, “We Never Left,” at the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach, Florida, “is a white bag with a streak of red interrupting the design,” he says. “I made it to draw attention to HIV in Native communities. It is an issue that needs more awareness.”
Speaking about creating during the quarantine, Hollis says, “all art is a form of release in some way, both for the artist and for the appreciator. Art allows us to express whatever emotion we need to express. What I’m saying is that there will be art expressing the struggle but I think more than that there will be art that expresses the beauty and thankfulness that we need in the world right now. That’s all I can do with my art at this time.”
IMAGE: Beaded Cuff, 2019, Japanese seed beads, antique (pre 1939) seed beads, contemporary steel cut beads, matte gold plated seed beads, Czech cut seed beads, Swarovski crystal, brass chain