A Story painting by Rebecca Lee Kunz from her 2021 Exhibit STORY PAINTINGS: A Mythological Narrative told by the Creatures of the Anthropocene 

at the Lloyd Kiva New Gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts ©2021

If you have been following along with the posts about my story paintings, then you may recall the story of the Cherokee creation myth and the animals who came down from the Sky Vault to live on Earth. Later some of these animals, like the coyote, were chosen to go back to their home above. These sky-bound creatures are believed to be particularly auspicious.

Coyotes became the muses for many of my paintings in this series. “Skyward Return” is about a vision I had on a day when I woke with a particular sense of unrest. In a dreamlike state, I saw my coyote friends leaping from the earth into a portal or crack in the sky. Somehow they held information that led them to jump into this sky portal.

Were these coyotes visiting the Sky Vault to seek guidance from their heavenly partners, perhaps to return with information for their friends down on earth? Or, were they abandoning their earthly realm to return to their original Sky Vault home?

The two red circular icons are inspired by ancient Cherokee shell gorgets and symbolize the four cardinal directions.

These visions come to me like archetypal puzzles waiting to be solved. I then work these questions into my paintings. My hope is that my work will spark a curiosity in some of you and that you might feel a sense of belonging or relation to the stories. If I have related to you, we are now in conversation. And if we are in conversation, then we are closer to our common human longing for connection to each other and to our place on earth. Or perhaps I’ve helped to inspire the creative muse that also lives in you.



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