ARTIST: Tom Huff
HOME: America (Native American)
LOCATION: The Picker Artists, 3 Pine Street
I am Native American from the Seneca and Cayuga Nations of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Primarily located in New York State, we call ourselves Haudenosaunee, “People of the Longhouse.” The Turtle, specifically the Snapping Turtle, is the base of our culture.
In our Iroquois creation story, we come from the sky. The story involves a pregnant woman (Skywoman) sent to Earth, which was covered with water at that time. As the woman fell to Earth, she was caught by the birds, but they didn’t know where to place her. It was then that the Great Snapping Turtle volunteered to hold up the Earth. This is why we call North America “Turtle Island.” And, if you look at a map of North America, it does resemble a Turtle. Some also call South America a Turtle Island. To the Haudenosaunee People, the Turtle is a Sacred Animal. I carve the Turtle with just the head and the shell. Not only it is recognizable, but I feel that the Turtle shape at its simplest is also the most powerful.
Tom Huff, Seneca Cayuga, is a stone sculptor working in a variety of stones, styles, and themes, traditional and contemporary. In much of his work, Huff addresses the current situation of Native Americans mixing cultural, stereotypical, political and autobiographical elements. He began carving stone, wood, and antler at home, inspired by the artists at the Cattaraugus Seneca Nation. He later attended the Institute of American Indian Arts (AFA, 1979) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Rhode Island School of Design (BFA, 1984) in Providence, Rhode Island.