Building One Fire
More than 200 artworks from 80 artists present a vivid, vital portrait of a remarkable people.
Building One Fire: Art and World View in Cherokee Life
Chadwick Corntassel Smith, Rennard Strickland, and Benny Smith
Blending centuries of Cherokee art and philosophy into a one-volume work is a daunting task, one that might take the entire Cherokee Nation to achieve. Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened.
Building One Fire: Art and World View in Cherokee Life is distributed by the University of Oklahoma Press, but publication is credited to the Cherokee Nation. Two of that nation’s most prominent scholars, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Chadwick Corntassel Smith, Cherokee-Osage authority Rennard Strickland, and Cherokee philosopher Benny Smith structured this visual feast of creativity around the Cherokee concept of the gifts of the four messengers.
In the Western tradition three is the magic number (past-present-future, faith-hope-charity), as we learned from Schoolhouse Rock. But in Cherokee culture the focal number is four, symbolizing four gifts from each of the cardinal directions, and the four-point circle that embraces the sacred fire.
What is most fascinating in Building One Fire is the remarkable diversity of art, photography, sculpture, and craftmaking represented. More than 200 artworks from 80 artists present a vivid, vital portrait of a remarkable people. Styles range from traditional to modern, primitive to abstract, with subjects both profound and whimsical.
Where some books tell the Cherokee story from an outsider’s point of view, Building One Fire illustrates how the Cherokee see themselves, and their place in the world. The desire for a hopeful future is expressed in the final section, featuring the colorful artwork of Cherokee children.