Tork Rains (Navajo) endures through art – Great Basin Native Artists series, part five
CARSON CITY, Nev .— Tork Rains has always been an artist.
But as a Navajo, he never identified as a Native American artist.
“I didn’t consider my artwork to be traditional Native American,” he said. “And it still isn’t.”
However, as he’s grown as an artist, he’s come to incorporate more of his heritage into his work and also to see the value in contemporary work under the Native American umbrella.
“I’m a Native American artist, and I embrace that,” he said. “Some of my work has hints of that.”
Rains, who has lived in Carson City since 2000, is one of five artists featured in the Great Basin Native Artists show on display at the Carson City Culture and Tourism Authority, 716 N. Carson St.
It is the second set of artists to show in the gallery and will remain through Nov. 23.
Melissa Melero-Moose, co-founder of the Great Basin Native Artists group, said the two-part show has been successful.
“We have a lot of support out here,” she said. “By showing at the tourism authority, we’ve been able to show a lot of tourists what Native artists have to offer. That’s exciting for our group.”
Rains, who trained at the Colorado Institute of Art, is pleased to have his work included in the exhibit.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I like that we’re getting a chance to show some of our goods. I’m also glad to get to see the other Native American artists. They’re an inspiration to me.”
Other artists in the second show include Joyce McCauley, fashion and regalia; Steve Nighthawk, drawing; Brandy McDaniels, print making; and Linda Eben Jones, beadwork and regalia.
Rains runs a silk screen business, Soap Box Press, out of his home. From the leftover materials, he creates his artwork.
“I either print right on the film or take a part from somewhere else and transfer it onto the film,” he said. “I’ve realized I can create some really interesting pieces that way.”
Through the process, however, the art takes on a life of its own, not always turning out the way he envisioned or not turning out at all.
“The film itself will either survive the process or it won’t,” Rains said. “You could just end up with a ball of ink or a ball of plastic.”
In his piece, “Endure Coyote,” Rains shows the juxtaposition of the Looney Tunes cartoon character Wile E. Coyote with a family of coyote pups.
“My first exposure to the coyote as an inner city child was Wile E. Coyote,” he recalled.
Decades later, while riding his bike along a trail in Carson City, he happened upon four coyote pups playing in a nearby creek.
“I just hung out and watched for a few minutes,” he said. “Later, some Native American friends told me there was a message in that for me.”
There’s a greater message in the work as well.
“Coyotes, as a species — they’re survivors,” Rains said. “Native American people are also survivors. They endured a lot and are still enduring. That’s what this piece means to me.”