Tahlequah Daily Press

January 2, 2013

Artist relies on spirituality

By RENEE FITE
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — As he smooths his hand down the side of the large sculpture, Eddie Morrison turns the piece to show the best view.

He said he had forgotten how many hours of work went into this  particular creation, as he made it about 20 years ago, but it would take him 30 days today.

“I have better tools, and more skill,” the Cherokee sculptor said.

A treasured piece, it has been kept in the home he shares with wife Faye, but his work is found in private and public collections throughout the United States. He was chosen Artist of the Month in 2000 by the American Indian Arts and Crafts Shop and had his work displayed in the Department of Interior Building in Washington, D.C. At home, his design was chosen in 2001 for the first Christmas ornament produced by the Cherokee Nation.  

“Besides my own feelings and interpretations, my ideas and themes come from the philosophies of Indians about life, spirituality, respect for life, animals and all that is around us, and the Great Creator,” Morrison said.

For 40 years, he’s been making art and today specializes in creating three-dimensional works from wood, stone and bronze in a style both traditional and contemporary, with multiple layers of visual interest and meaning.

“I let the material speak for itself, as sometimes it has a story of its own to tell,” Morrison said. “I started out as a painter, but fell in love with sculpting later on.”

While he’s been a full-time artist for the last decade, the Tahlequah native retired from medical technology.

“Tahlequah is where I grew up, went to grade school, high school, and college, and graduated from Northeastern with a BS degree in 1969,” he said. “I love Tahlequah and everything about it. I live north of town, in Steeley Hollow, and when I came back 12 years ago , I knew I was home to stay.”

After college, he left Tahlequah and went to Santa Fe, N.M.

“I went back to school in my 40s and got an art degree from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe in 1993, and studied three-dimensional art,” he said.

It was there he earned the Faculty Department Award for Outstanding Student in Three-Dimensional Art.

One artist who has greatly inspired Morrison with sculpting is Alan Houser.

“I’ve been influenced by the great Apache sculptor Alan Houser, who I was fortunate to have known and studied under at the Art Student League of Denver, in a marble sculpting class,” he said.

Mediums he works in are wood, stone and bronze, Morrison said, “and really enjoy doing stone sculpting, as it is a challenge.”

“The passion,” is why he sculpts, he said. “I will keep challenging myself to do bigger and better art.”

He is one of those people who has to create

“I make art because it is in my blood, I guess, and the good Lord blessed me with a gift,” he said. “I want to keep doing stone sculpting long as I can, but it is getting harder to handle and lift the stone as I get older, so don’t know how much longer I can do it, but I’ll do it as long as I can.”

Opportunities have found Morrison because of his artistic creations.

“Art has taken me to a lot of places I’ve never been before and my art’s gone around the world,” Morrison said.

A monument he sculpted sits on the Oklahoma Kansas border, where the Chisholm Trail crossed into Kansas at Caldwell, Kansas, he said.

“It’s dedicated to Jesse Chisholm, who was half Cherokee,” he said.

The 1,600-pound piece, made of limestone, was completed in 1995.

Other places his work is displayed publicly, besides the piece on the Chisholm Trail, include the Fort Restaurant in Denver, which has three of his pieces in the court yard; the Indian Center Museum in Wichita, Kan.; the McCarty State Farm Office in Owasso; the Border Queen Museum in Kansas; a bank in Medford; the Three Forks Ranch near Muskogee has three pieces; and the Kansas/Oklahoma Telephone Company has one in its lobby.

“Art tells a lot about us to future generations, I believe, and always has,” Morrison said. “And I like to think that some of my art will be here on this earth hundreds of years after I’m gone.”

He was influenced by growing up around family, like his grandmother Jane Batt Brackett, and others who were always making something with their hands, he said, including quilts, crocheting, bows, and more.

“Some of my earliest recollections are my grandmother and aunt designing and crafting quilts,” he said. “And my best friend’s father would sit for hours on end carving pieces of wood into beautiful traditional bows and arrows, which greatly influenced my feeling for wood.”

And today, he said, he’s inspired by all that is around him

The Morrisons have lots of grandchildren and he’s proud of all his kids and grandkids.

“But there’s not a artist in the whole bunch,” he said.

His hobby is collecting art from fellow artists, pottery, paintings, sculpture, bead work and native jewelry.