Addison Karl

Portraits in Chickasaw Strength and Resilience

Internationally renowned Chickasaw artist Addison Karl grew up in awe of his grandfather because his connection to nature seemed almost magical. "My grandfather, he had such a curious mind to really observe nature and what was around him," he says. "There isn't a single day that goes by that I don't try to measure my actions in the sense of is this something that my grandfather would approve of and be okay with? So, I think that that ancestral voice is really in the back of my head."

Although Addison struggled earlier in life to find his artistic voice, his determination would open doors he couldn't have imagined. After losing his house when the market crashed, he packed up his belongings and bought a one-way ticket to Europe. There he found a street art community that would open his eyes and his heart, developing a style all his own. "I built up a portfolio and at least a little bit of confidence," he says. "Started applying to public art and started getting invited to mural festivals that would bring me to all sorts of crazy places around the world—Malaysia, Japan, Russia, Moscow, Pakistan, Italy."

Addison credits where he is today to his perseverance. "I'm not a sculptural artist trained academically or from an institution," he says. "I'm trained because I'm curious and because I have years of drafting and drawing and painting that I can apply towards it." The self-taught contemporary visual artist expresses himself across mediums, from painting and sculpting to murals and illustrations. And with the spirit of his unconquered and unconquerable ancestors flowing through him, he sees his art as an opportunity to share his heritage with the world. "One hundred percent there's Chickasaw influence in the work that I'm creating now," he says. "It's not one thread. It's many threads that weave the fabric. I can still identify from that common thread."