The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) mourns the passing of Cherokee weaver Shan Goshorn (2014 NACF Artist Fellowship), after a long battle with cancer. A treasured member of the NACF family of artists, she was known for her sensitivity to serious issues that affected Native peoples and her innovative use of contemporary materials. In her practice, Shan wove Cherokee baskets, vessels and other works using reproductions of historical manuscripts and photographs as materials. The images documented key themes in modern Native history, including removal, boarding schools, missing indigenous women and the commercial appropriation of Native aesthetics and sovereignty.
Her goal as an artist was to pique interest and create space for audiences to begin long-overdue dialogue about the unique challenges impacting Native people today. As she told The New Mexican in Santa Fe, “[The baskets] are a vessel that every culture experiences. We associate them with caring, nurturing things, whether it’s babies or carrying wood or carrying crops or carrying water. … They’re pretty, they’re colorful, they’re interesting. People look at them — especially the ones with photographs on them [reproduced and woven into the exterior] — and they’re just so curious. They’re like, How did she do that? Did she paint on the basket? And they literally lean into the work, and that’s the moment when we can have this honest dialogue, this conversation I’ve been trying to have with my work for 20 years. Instead of leaving so agitated … they actually leave feeling like they know more about American history, and they can understand why these topics are relevant now.”
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Shan found most of her artistic inspiration in her teenage years when she worked for a summer at her tribe’s Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual cooperative in Cherokee, North Carolina. There, she became familiar with leading Eastern Band Cherokee artists and art forms. This experience led to a job with the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, where she helped organize Native art exhibitions and photographed the harvesting and preparation raw materials for Cherokee basket-making, carving, and other cultural art forms.
Since 2009, Shan wove more than 200 baskets and she had been identified by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian as the 14th living Eastern Band Cherokee to master the difficult double-weave technique. She was also awarded multiple fellowships and her work has been displayed in collections such as the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC), Gilcrease Museum (OK), Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (NM), CN Gorman Museum (UC Davis, CA), Minneapolis Institute of Art (MN), Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art(IN) and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian (NC). Shan Goshorn received a 2013 Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, 2013 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, 2013 SWAIA Discovery Fellowship, and the 2015 United States Artists Fellowship.
Our deepest sympathies go out to her family and those close to her.