"I have always been
an artist, even before I knew what that meant."
Drawing in the dirt under his
family's Mississippi home turned out to be the earliest
indication of Randall Chitto's artistic talent; drawing
in the blank pages of any book he found was the next.
When the budding artist's family relocated from their
Choctaw Reservation home to Chicago as part of the Indian
Relocation Act of 1956 it soon gave Chitto the opportunity,
while still in high school, to be chosen in a citywide
competition for admittance into specialized art classes.
These included classes at the Chicago Art Institute and
the Illinois Institute of Technology.
When Chitto enrolled in The
Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, his
primary medium was painting but it was while studying
here that he discovered clay; he graduated with degrees
in both two- and three-dimensional work. His clay work
is now in the collections of numerous museums including
The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington,
DC, The Denver Art Museum and the Heard Museum in Phoenix,
AZ. Chitto is the winner of a Southwestern Association
for Indian Arts Fellowship and is also a Dubin Fellow
at the School of American Research.
For the Mississippi Choctaw
people the turtle is the keeper of stories and history
and it is the turtle that has become Chitto's primary
subject. They appear as Koshares (sacred clowns in Puebloan
cultures) and Storytellers, alongside an occasional bear
Storyteller. Each one appears in the playful manner that
Chitto confesses may be a simple caricature of himself.
"I am deeply proud of
the art pieces I make," Chitto notes, "even
after all these years. The amount of work and the craftsmanship
I put into each piece is so immense the finished piece
is very exciting for me." For Chitto there is no
greater feeling than that of putting in a full day in
his studio - and the creation of his meticulous and joyful
clay turtles has allowed him to do that, to live life
as the artist he has always been.
The artist likes to bring a
smile to people, and his work does just that.