Young Art Writers Project Feature: Do You Practice Your Culture?

Published November 27th 2023
By Hannah Logsdon

The sculpture stands a little over five feet tall and dominates a room with the presence and punch of the bright red wording written across the side of two faces attached at the back with five sets of eyes each. The drama of Do You Practice Your Culture by Raven Halfmoon is hard to miss. The ceramic statue demands an answer to a question we simply do not think about enough. While the piece, as well as the series, The Flags of Our Mothers, that the piece is a part of, is considered Pop Art, the provocative nature of the work leans heavily on Halfmoon’s ancestry in the Caddo people and the history of their culture.

When one first sees the piece, it is easy to be taken aback by the abrasive yet simple technique of the work. The amount of texture present across the entire surface of the piece shows the time taken in Halfmoon’s process and the emphasis she places on seeing human touch in all of her work.1 There is a stark contrast between the white glaze on the piece and the brilliant red paint Halfmoon used to paint her question as well as the war makeup on the two faces of the statue. This red paint can be seen as representing both the blood of the Caddo people who have been lost, and the war paint they have donned for the purpose of battle.2

The sculpture itself consists of two heads attached at the back looking in opposite directions with five sets of eyes on each face. Halfmoon has said that the faces are representative of the looking forward as well as backward within the Caddo Nation. Looking backward at the dark history the people have suffered through. Looking forward to what the Nation can do moving forward in representing and caring for its rich culture.

While the piece itself is incredible visually and in thought, the process of creating Do You Practice Your Culture and the artist herself are equally interesting. The sculpture was fired, glazed, and fired again in Halfmoon’s studio in Norman, Oklahoma. One of the first things one might consider when approaching this piece is its dominating size. How on earth was she able to fire this massive statue? Halfmoon has several different kilns in her studio of varying sizes, including an eight-foot-tall kiln, that allows her to fire her colossal sculptures. One might also wonder how much clay Halfmoon goes through on a regular basis. She reportedly goes through an astounding 2,400 pounds of clay every two to three months3. When Halfmoon first started to truly focus on ceramics as her main media, she would make all of her clay by hand, but eventually the demand of her work led her to start ordering premade clay for greater ease in the studio4.

Raven Halfmoon, the artist behind the sculpture, is a member of the Caddo Nation. The Caddo people heavily influenced her artistic style, where she was introduced to clay as a media at the age of thirteen by Caddo artist Jeri Redcorn.5 This also played into her artistic style through the earthen works and coil pots she grew up around, which influenced the size and structure of her pieces.6 In addition to this, you can see the impact of her anthropology classes in her work, which could be compared with the Olmec heads in Mexico and the Easter Island heads, along with the earthworks of the Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma, Moundville in Alabama, and Serpent Mound in Ohio7. All of this culminates in the execution of Halfmoon’s work and the representation she strives to present.

Halfmoon’s series Flags of Our Mothers showcases several other works that embody her style as well as the meaning and purpose behind her work. They also capture the sheer size of her works, some reaching over ten feet tall when put together and several hundred pounds, thus requiring a crane to move the pieces into galleries. Regardless of size, Halfmoon has the same motif across her works. All of them are ceramic, all with white glaze and red paint, some with accents of black. Her color palette, even outside of this series, consists mostly of red, white, black, and dark browns, which reflects back to the Caddo Nation. Halfmoon’s works also aim to poke at pop culture while pointing back to her cultural roots in the Caddo people. She consistently uses logos from name brands such as Channel, Louis Vuitton, and others in her works to point out how ridiculous the over-commercialization of such products appears.8

There is very little information to be found about Do You Practice Your Culture directly, but the series and exhibit that the piece travels with all speak to a similar story; do you practice your culture, and do you know your history? As was mentioned earlier in the paper, Raven Halfmoon is from the Caddo Nation and directs most of her work toward speaking up about the history of the group and the art that they have created. This can be seen clearly in Do You Practice Your Culture through several aspects of the piece. Halfmoon emphasized the coil pot technique used to make her pieces and the connection that they hold between her work and the Caddo Nation traditions in art. While the coil pot technique is not obvious on the surface of the piece, the appearance of the sculpture is a callback to the earthworks of several different indigenous groups.9 The thumbprints covering the surface of the sculpture refer to an ancient Caddo technique is called “punctuating.”10 The technique involves building up black clay on a coil structure with rounded forms the size of a thumbprint. This results in a prominent texture on the surface of the piece. This technique leads one to ponder how the piece would feel to the touch, even with glaze on top of it. The running paint on the sculpture, a consistent motif of Halfmoon across her work in both sculpture and some of her earlier paintings also underscores the blood that ran down the faces of the Caddo people through their history of being forcibly relocated several times in their existence.11 The faces themselves are representative of the existing relationship between society, culture, and self.12 This correlates with the red lines on the chins of the two faces and the traditional tattoos and war paint worn by the Caddo. Halfmoon consistently uses powerful forms to represent the strength of her ancestors and the difficulties they have had to overcome.

One might look at the faces that make up the sculpture and wonder about the five eyes, the lines on their chins, and the fierce scowl present on their regal faces. While Halfmoon has not gendered the two faces, research would suggest that the lines on the chins of the two faces indicate that these are two female faces, as Caddo women traditionally have lines tattooed on their faces.13 This could lead one to infer that the sculpture is not only a commentary on the attentiveness to one's own culture, but to the value that culture places on the societal roles of each gender within that culture. The five sets of eyes on each face have been suggested to represent the eyes of several generations of the Caddo nation, looking back while also looking forward as new opportunities for representation slowly become available.14 Halfmoon’s choice in using this imagery is masterful for more than the provocative nature of these distinctive features. Still, also in that this can be viewed as the culmination of the existence, work, perseverance, and wisdom passed down from one generation to the next.

This type of cultural representation is not as common in the art world as it could be. While Pop Art has been an area of great experimentation with the presentation of ideas and beliefs, introducing thought processes, and exploring how to present societal problems in formats that may be more or less palatable, we don’t see much to do with the outcries of different cultural groups’ silent suffering. In this, Halfmoon is presenting yet another complex side to an already rich area of art. She pushes us to consider our culture if we have any defined culture that we know of and understand. These works also call out to us to ponder the understanding of our history both on the individual level and in groups. How common is it for an individual to know details of their ancestry, of the culture from which their great-grandparents and older ancestors were raised? Unfortunately, with the average American, that school of knowledge is becoming increasingly rare. Raven Halfmoon has bluntly shown a bright spotlight on this ignorance. She has directly asked if we know about our culture. This leads the viewer to consider if they have a grasp on what it truly means to practice their culture, if it is appropriate to celebrate that culture, what that may look like for an individual to do so, and how one could even begin the journey to understanding their ancestral past.

Works like that of Halfmoon are encouraging in the possibility of seeing more artwork that reaches for us and pulls us into the discomfort of the many ways we have become comfortable with ignoring, disregarding, and frankly forgetting about the abundance of cultures that have created the world we exist in. Halfmoon may not be the only artist working within the cultural representation area of art, but her approach is unique. She pulls from several different Native American Tribes and presents a masterful amalgamation of their styles, histories, cultures, and influences. While one might assume that these styles, techniques, and stories would all be fairly similar, they all present differently. Yes, the Native American motif of blacks, reds, and browns in the palette is fairly consistent and is the main color scheme in Halfmoon’s works. However, each tribe tells a different story, has different symbolism, and engages with their surroundings differently. Thus, this collection of techniques allows Halfmoon to not only tell the stories of the Caddo but to further point to our dismissal of other works through her presentation of multiple traditions in her pieces.

In several interviews, Raven Halfmoon made the point of speaking to the value she places on cultural heritage.15 Not only her personal heritage but that of other tribes. Her studies in anthropology have opened up a world of possibility in advocacy, approach, subject matter, and storytelling. Halfmoon’s pieces may vary in what exactly they are calling attention to, but the size, technique, and colors used have an excellent consistency. This personal voice that Raven Halfmoon has worked to develop allows more than just her voice to be heard. Through her approach to storytelling, Halfmoon has created a body of works that push us to consider those who came before us, those who may have been stepped on, and the stereotypes that we have allowed ourselves to continue to believe.

Do You Practice Your Culture is a work that calls us to think deeply. A quick glance over the work simply does not do justice to the layers of thought, intention, history, and culture that Raven Halfmoon molds into her work. Do You Practice Your Culture challenges us to look for our cultural histories, while examining the traditions Halfmoon is actively working to keep alive. She has presented us with a sculpture that captures the techniques of the Caddo Nation through the building up of clay that she learned from those who came before her.16 This passing down of tradition is not only seen in her technique but in the subject matter itself. When one looks into the faces of the sculpture, they are faced with the stern gaze of Halfmoon’s ancestral stories. The faces, adorned with the red lines of the Caddo, and other Native American groups, stare right back at you and further push the consideration of what it could truly mean to practice your culture.

Do You Practice Your Culture is on view at the newly opened Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock.

Hannah Logsdon is a multi-media artist pursuing a BA in Art Education at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. She is scheduled to graduate in May of 2025 and plans to move to Italy to teach and apply to an M.F.A program.


1 Emma Grayson, “Raven Halfmoon’s Caddo Sculptures Are Shaped by History.”
2 Nino Mier Gallery, “Raven Halfmoon”
3 Emma Grayson, “Raven Halfmoon’s Caddo Sculptures Are Shaped by History.”
4 Emma Grayson, “Raven Halfmoon’s Caddo Sculptures Are Shaped by History.”
5 Kēhaulani Kauanui (Kanaka Maoli), “Clay…Lets You Leave Your Mark Exactly How You Put it Down: An Interview With Raven Halfmoon”
6 Emma Grayson, “Raven Halfmoon’s Caddo Sculptures Are Shaped by History.”
7 Chadd Scott, “Raven Halfmoon’s Monumental Homage to Indigenous Women.”
8 Chadd Scott, “Raven Halfmoon’s Monumental Homage to Indigenous Women.”
9 Chadd Scott, “Raven Halfmoon’s Monumental Homage to Indigenous Women.”
10 Texas HistoricalCommission, “Caddo Pottery.”
11 National Parks Service, “Caddo Timeline.”
12 Nino Mier Gallery, “Raven Halfmoon”
13 Admin, “A Very Short Overview of the Caddo Indians.”
14 Default, “Raven Halfmoon: Contemporary Caddo Stories.”
15 Emma Grayson, “Raven Halfmoon’s Caddo Sculptures Are Shaped by History.”
16 Emma Grayson, “Raven Halfmoon’s Caddo Sculptures Are Shaped by History.”


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November 21, 2019.


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Some sources didn’t name the author. Information was filled in where it could be