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Erin Lee Antonak

Oneida Indian Nation

“My artwork is a portrait of what it is to be a modern Iroquois woman and claims my place in the great chain of Iroquois women before and after me.”

Erin Lee Antonak is a sculptor, a milliner, and a Wolf Clan member of the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. She holds a BFA from Bard College, an MFA from SUNY New Paltz, and has studied at Lacoste School of the Arts, France and Vermont Studio Center. She is currently the Multidisciplinary Arts Curator at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, the Board Chair of the Indigenous Women’s Voices Summit, Hurleyville, NY and serves as a Yale University Morse College Fellow, New Haven, CT. Erin has worked in various museums and art galleries developing, designing, and building exhibitions for over 20 years. She has also organized and curated shows in Europe, Asia, and North America. Her artwork fuses traditional Iroquois sensibilities and craft techniques with contemporary materials and concepts.


Artist Statement

I am Wolf Clan, from the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. I often consider the things we pass down between generations. I grew up learning Iroquois crafts from my elders. I look at my hands when I am working using traditional techniques and consider how they are the result of women’s hands working in the same way over many generations. Working in this way ties me to my lineage and creates a space for me to contemplate my humanness and connectedness to the past and the future. This work represents knowledge about life and healing sent through time from my ancestral mothers. I reflect on the lives of my matrilineal ancestors, who they were and the challenges they faced. It is comforting and empowering to know my own life is proof of their ability to persevere through extraordinarily difficult circumstances. 

My artwork is a portrait of what it is to be a modern Iroquois woman and claims my place in the great chain of Iroquois women before and after me. I manipulate contemporary materials using ancient techniques and use traditional materials in contemporary ways.  By doing this I am creating a link between myself and my ancestors.  I often reference time travel and portals (mental, physical, or otherwise), openings to other worlds and other possibilities, wormholes for the past, present and future to communicate through. I explore issues of identity and trauma and pose individual and collective methods for self-healing, self-soothing, mourning and mitigating loneliness.