Fox Spears

Tribe: Karuk
Based In: Seattle, WA

About the Art
My printmaking reinterprets traditional Karuk basketry designs into contemporary works on paper. As a lifelong resident of an urban city (Seattle) who was raised hundreds of miles north from our ancestral territory (Klamath River in northwest California), making art is the best way I have found to build and maintain personal connections with Karuk people, language, and culture.

I often reference river and mountain landscapes with the organic shapes layered within the geometric patterns. The relationship that Indigenous people have with land is often presented as mystical, but it was built over millennia as our ancestors carefully observed and listened to their environments. I do not believe that relationship is wholly dependent on any specific physical location; instead, it is a way of moving through the world. Tommy Orange (Cheyenne/Arapaho) touched on this in his recent debut novel, There There, when he wrote, “Being Indian has never been about returning to the land. The land is everywhere or nowhere.”

When approaching a new series, I begin by looking at historical baskets for inspiration. A traditional basket starts with the gathering and preparation of materials. It can take a year of collecting and processing before any weaving takes place. I think about the people who made them, the knowledge that was passed down from previous generations, and the time and effort that brought these baskets into existence. Each basket tells a unique story, and is a memory from a way of life that has existed since time immemorial.

The prints I make are a deliberate continuance of one visual aspect of Karuk culture. While my work is not created as activist art, its very presence inherently becomes an act of resistance against colonial assimilation. My art is made with these intentions: to thank and honor my ancestors, to mourn losses and heal historical traumas, and to help create new Indigenous futures.