Kassie John is a senior at the University of Utah studying platform design through the Multi-Disciplinary Design Program under the College of Architecture + Planning. She’s a digital designer who specializes in illustration and social impact design. Her project, the Indigenous Womxnhood Series, started in summer 2020 as a digital art series that inspires community and connection in Native American art. There is little Native American representation in popular culture, and it does not illustrate powerful or relatable images of what it’s like to be indigenous.
She wants to show the different phases of being an indigenous woman in a way that communicates a feeling of sisterhood and camaraderie that doesn’t romanticize the indigenous experience. She’s telling the stories of real people in her community through her art so people can see it and identify with it.
John’s art highlights what people often overlook or wouldn’t know about her indigenous culture, such as the Two-Spirit identity, a representation of one construct of LGBTQIA+ and non-binary people. She’s also highlighted notable figures, like Maria Tallchief, America’s first major prima ballerina.
By reaching out to others and asking them about their experiences, she creates art her sisters and others can recognize in themselves. She hopes to continue her project as these stories keep evolving as she talks with her peers. “They’re community leaders,” John said. “They’re people that I look up to.” This is a story that keeps building on itself as she learns more about womanhood and indigeneity.
Find this article and a lot more in the 2022 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.