Creativity runs through Starr Hardridge’s veins like blood. He’s been painting and drawing his entire life. An enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, he grew up in central Oklahoma surrounded by the artistic traditions of his culture. His formal training includes a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration and painting from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Later studies in France at the Nadaï Verdon Atelier of Decorative Arts emphasized harmony and composition and the elegant blending of historical styles and contemporary modalities. His unique artistic voice rises from the compelling characteristics of his native heritage.
Hardridge has developed a distinctive style that unites pointillism and southeastern-woodland beadwork aesthetics in dramatic compositions that are the hallmark of a deeply contemplative mind. Audacious color and geometric and abstracted design motifs drawn from ancient Muscogee themes illuminate his paintings. There are no brushstrokes in the artist’s work. Rather, paint is applied painstakingly dot by dot using a special applicator. Stepping back from an artwork the dots blend together in a harmonized whole. Up close, the textured surface honors the mastery of native beadwork.
The artist’s subject matter frequently includes highly stylized and allegorical portrayals of native people and a natural world enhanced by mythological symbols and designs. A complex investigation goes into the selection of each compositional component and each element carries special significance. For example, winged creatures such as birds and butterflies connote closeness to the Creator and figures are often engaged in activities reflecting mankind’s connection to the divine.
Native American art has evolved over centuries. Creative expressions of daily life and personal and tribal relationships to the universe have been explored through a wide variety of mediums. The output has enriched our lives and given us a broader understanding of other cultures. In recent times, artists like Starr Hardridge have mastered fresh means of telling these stories, through abstraction and contemporary references. He and others like him are today’s storytellers and we can look forward to years of inspiration ahead.
Starr Hardridge's work was featured in the nationally touring group exhibition of Return From Exile, a show focusing on resilience and resistance of the Southeastern Native American tribes removed to the Oklahoma territories. In 2015 Pendleton Woolen Mills selected him as their Legendary Blanket Artist. He continues to rack up awards and has garnered national and international recognition. His paintings can be found in museum and private collections across the country such as the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kansas and the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana.