Born in 1980 in Tulsa, Yatika Starr Fields is a member of the Cherokee, Creek and Osage tribes, as well as a member of the Bear Clan.
Yatika Fields studied landscape painting at the University of Oklahoma’s Sienna, Italy summer program before enrolling at the Art Institute of Boston from 2001 to 2004. While living on the East Coast, the artist developed a keen interest in street art. His dynamic, vibrant graffiti works quickly attracted attention, generating public and private mural commissions across the country from Portland to Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Santa Fe, and Bentonville.
In 2018, he completed Astonishment of Perception, a monumental site-specific mural in downtown Bentonville, as part of Crystal Bridges Museum’s Art for a New Understanding (2018–2019). Spanning the side of Cripps Law Firm’s two-story building, the work depicts lady justice peeking from behind her blindfold, highlighting the dissonance between America’s ideals and its judicial system in practice. Like many of Fields’s works, the mural blends abstract and stylistic elements, figuration, and allegorical narrative, all in a dynamic, saturated Pop-palette.
After joining the water protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, Fields began to give the Indigenous history of hope and struggle a greater focus in his work. In the 2017 series Tent Metaphor Standing Rock, the artist recovered tents after the infamous February 22, 2017 police raid on the protesters, sewing the recovered material into shapes resembling coffins, sleeping bags, or kites. Fields first worked with tents—a mainstay of middle-class camping holidays—after witnessing Seattle’s brightly colored homeless encampments. His interest only increased after noticing the structure’s role in modern protest movements. The artist recombines the vivid material into traditional Indigenous patterns, anti-pipeline slogans like “Stop the Black Snake,” and into dynamic, compelling abstract compositions. In its totality, the series blurs the boundaries between political polemic and abstraction, between distress, resistance, and hope.
The painting, America Realized (2017), also memorializes the experience at Standing Rock. The composition is explosive: Torrents of ice and fire swirl through prayer ties and collapsing tents, recounting the freezing weather, police force, and fires that the activists braved at Oceti Sakowin, the central camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. A surveillance drone flies across the top of the expansive canvas packed with razor wire, floodlights, and debris. The scale of the 6-by-6-foot composition allows for Fields to replicate the embodied, fluid performance of mural and street art. As in graffiti works, Fields blurs the line between abstraction and representation, creating stylistic compositions out of recognizable elements, and setting them against dynamic, swirling fields of color and twisting forms.
Fields has participated in over 43 solo and group exhibitions at venues across the United States and Europe, including: the Southern Plains Indian Museum, (2008, Anadarko, Oklahoma); Chiaroscuro Contemporary (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, Santa Fe); BlueRain Gallery (2015, 2016, 2018, Santa Fe); Peabody Essex Museum, (2015–2016, Salem, MA); Rainmaker Gallery (2017, Bristol, UK); the Grand Palais (2018, Paris); the Philbrook Museum (2018, Tulsa); the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, 2019); and the Gilcrease Museum, (2019, Tulsa). Fields’s paintings are featured in the collections of many museums across the country, including: the Heard Museum (Phoenix); the Hood Museum (Dartmouth College); Oklahoma State Museum of Art; the Peabody Essex Museum; and the Sam Noble Museum (University of Oklahoma).