Henry Payer is a Ho Chunk (Winnebago) artist who works primarily with collage and mixed media. Born in Sioux City, IA in 1986, Payer received a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM in 2008. He was invited to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received an MFA in 2013. Henry has exhibited work his at such places as the Great Plains Museum of Art in Lincoln, NE; All My Relationships Gallery in Minneapolis, MN; Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art in Kansas City, MO; and Overture Galleries located in Madison, WI. Payer’s work has also been exhibited at the University of Venice Ca’ Voscari, Palazzo Cosulich in Venice, Italy. Payer has spent time as an instructor at the Oscar Howe Summer Art Institute, located at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. He currently lives in Sioux City, IA.
Payer’s narrative compositions are bold and contemporary. His works use indigenous cartographic methods with traditional aspects of spatial representation and symbolism, while adopting European modernist models of cubism, spatial distortion and collage. Each work offers a visual account of the symbols and voices appropriated by American consumer society that reconfigure history, refer to the altered landscape or identity of a portrait. The Payer questions our assumptions and challenges the dialogue of what should be expected of local artists. Henry represents the work of artists seeking to expand the range and voice of their visual expression and cultural representation while attending to the concepts and forms of tradition.
Artist’s statement: “My interest is in recovering the history of Ho Chunk and preserving our visual culture. As an Indigenous artist, it’s important I bring useful ways to talk about our experiences and share our history. My focus is on an accurate representation that challenges our pervasive American identity to interpret the modern Ho Chunk experience. I create works that address our cultural survival and visual continuity.
I make collage paintings with the goal of creating a contemporary aesthetic that reflects, revitalizes and reintegrates the forms and narratives of Ho Chunk visual art. I have developed a multimedia artistic practice that expands the visual language through the re-incorporation of traditional objects, forms and motifs using contemporary methods and techniques. My process involved traveling to these places of our historical departure, where I sought access to documents, maps, photographs and cultural objects obtained from museums to research the visual forms and language of our material arts. This influenced my work by relating to both our relationship with the land from displacement and our acquired traditional art forms. This exploration allows the artwork to speak to issues of land, identity and our visual culture by combining historical narratives, maps and photographs with literary concepts, art history and personal experiences.
Utilizing extensive research in combination with inherent perspective; I am able to recover, document and expand contemporary Ho Chunk artistic expression. I aim to contribute to the revision and inclusion of our history through the active depiction of Ho Chunk’s narrative. My perception and relationship with the land is based on a shared experience found within the power of these places of inspiration. This initial reaction is a physical intervention with places of historical significance where the act of removal/displacement separates the connection between the collage and my cultural background. The multidisciplinary works then inform each other, contributing through the use of shared materials and content. While I have been fortunate to interact with the characteristics of traditional culture, I am committed to this lifelong access to knowledge in an effort to develop artworks based on concepts specific to Ho Chunk aesthetics, stories and ways of life. My works are contemporary expressions that reflect my growth as a Ho Chunk artist while preserving the tradition of my culture.”
You can find more of his artwork on his Instagram page @hochunkhenry