The featured artwork of Arizona State University’s seventh annual Doing Research in Indigenous Communities conference was illustrated by animation major Lucilla Taryole.

Visualizing the Indigenous Research Experience

ASU - Turning Points Magazine
9 min readDec 1, 2023


Lucilla Taryole’s art creations have always reached the masses. In fifth grade, Lucilla (Kiowa and Mvskoke) submitted artwork into their elementary school’s yearbook cover contest and won first place for best design. Now an undergraduate studying for their bachelor’s in animation at Arizona State University’s (ASU) Herberger Institute for Design and Arts, Lucilla’s artwork is now reaching, and serving, the Indigenous Sun Devil community.

Lucilla’s artwork was featured in this year’s seventh annual Doing Research in Indigenous Communities (DRIC) conference hosted at ASU. Hosted at ASU’s Tempe campus on October 23 and 24, this conference offers opportunities for students, researchers and community members an opportunity to understand and address the research needs of tribal nations and communities.

Turning Points Magazine editor Taylor Notah (Diné) sat down with Lucilla to discuss their thought processes behind the conference’s graphic.

Taylor Notah: Share with TP a little bit about yourself. Where do you call home? What are you studying? What are your interests and hobbies?

Lucy Taryole: Where I call home is friends and family. It’s never set in place, it’s just people I like to be comfortable around. My major is animation with the Herberger Institute. Obviously my hobbies have to do with art. My interests vary but I do like comedy and I like silly little drawings. I think that ties in with my hobbies, too.

Lucilla Taryole. (Photo courtesy of Lucilla Taryole)

TN: How did the opportunity to create artwork for an Indigenous conference present itself to you?

LT: It was offered through my job at the Center for Indian Education as a student worker. The planning committee for the conference was seeking a student artist to provide the graphic for the event and my name and work were mentioned. It’s nice to get cool opportunities like that through ASU.

TN: What did you enjoy most about this project?

LT: What I enjoyed most was figuring out how to visualize what an Indigenous researcher would look like. Obviously I wanted it to be a woman because that is all I see here at the office and within the other Indigenous communities here. Another fun thing was the sticker portion of the laptop. The committee wanted me to also visualize what student life is like so stickers convey that pretty well. They convey personalities within student life and Indigenous researchers.

TN: With this project, how was this one unique compared to other art projects you’ve done in the past? What made this one separate from the others?

LT: The first thing that comes to my mind is how unique it is. Instead of posting it online or collaborating with a friend, this is a piece of work that a bunch of people get to see. A bunch of people will get to wear it as well, that’s kind of cool. I also like that it’s encouraging undergrads like myself and my friends that I know of that want to be in indigenous research.

TN: With this project, were there any challenges along the way? If so, what were they?

LT: One of the challenges was I wanted to put little pieces of myself into the graphic because I think it would be cool to represent some parts of myself into it. It took a minute to figure out how to present that obviously with the earrings to represent one part of my tribe.

TN: Was getting different input from various people across ASU a challenge for yourself?

LT: Yes because I wanted it to look good for them, but I wanted it to look good for myself as well. Creating art for other people is pretty fun but I also wanted to be proud of it. One of the problems was the coloring but I think after getting some input, it really helped guide me to color it in a better way. Originally I was just going to use three colors but they wanted me to use four and switch out some of the colors. That was challenging because they were contrasting colors and I wanted to make sure the piece was visually balanced.

TN: The committee members with the Office of American Indian Initiatives, they gave you free reign on the art itself. Would that be a challenge in itself, trying to figure out what the artwork would be?

LT: Yes, I’ve had many instances where when I did art for people like commissions, they would say “Oh, you have creative liberty” and that can be frustrating because I don’t know what you want and I don’t know how to start it just yet. But once I figure out a general idea, then I relay that idea to the person who asked me for the artwork and get their input, see if they like it or not. So it’s a hit or miss with that. It’s like gambling.

TN: The fine details of the artwork, let’s dive into that. Are there any intricate details you’d like to share with the Native community here at ASU?

LT: We’ll start with the person in the middle. She is wearing Kiowa oak leaves. They’re usually red and blue oak leaves but I think it works just fine with the gold and maroon. And then the jewelry is also representative of myself. The bracelet, the rings and necklace are typically the only type of jewelry I wear all the time.

(Illustration by: Lucilla Taryole)

And the stickers, I got input from the DRIC committee on what kind of stickers they wanted me to do so I did the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples. One person in the committee sent me a specific sticker with the Arizona state symbol and I did my best to replicate the design there while also making sure it doesn’t look jumbled or get lost in the printing process. I abbreviated most of the words there because the title is pretty long, but I still wanted to make sure that people could tell it was Indigenous research.

The SkoDevils was suggested by a friend, Alonzo Coronado, and I wanted to do that, too. As an art student, a lot of people that I know make art and sell their art so it’s pretty fun getting pieces of art from your friends. The little heart with the horns, most people probably just see that as a Sun Devil thing, but the intention of that was to be reminiscent of the buffalo head symbol from my Kiowa tribe.

(Left:) Sticker design by Alonzo Coronado. (Right:) Lucilla Taryole’s incorporation of their friend Alonzo’s work into the DRIC artwork.

TN: Can you talk more about the graphic of the book and the medicine?

LT: The Indigenous research binder and papers, I immediately thought of that because since I work in an office with Indigenous researchers, that is all I see. And it does make sense, too, because it is fun looking through those binders and seeing what documents they graded or the documents that they wrote themselves.

TN: Or the leftover Post Its.

LT: Yeah, and getting little snippets of their life.

TN: Dr. Brayboy! *laughs* Shoutout to Dr. Brayboy!

LT: Yeah, it’s just a bunch of papers and binders, too. I think that really encapsulates what research life is like. Even though that’s not my preferred career choice, it is nice seeing and being around that.

TN: Yeah! I guess sometimes we take that for granted in academic spaces. Also for me, it’s work. I work here, but sometimes I forget, or maybe all of us forget in some way, if you just stop and look around, there’s a whole bunch of cool stuff where someone’s life work is in there or years of dedication to this particular topic is there. And it is cool to flip through binders and see peoples notes.

LT: Yeah it’s like looking at publications. It looks cool, but nobody really thinks about what the process looks like.

TN: And how messy it can be!

LT: Yeah, and that’s what we get to see most out of those binders instead of hard-covered books. Because we see a book and it’s just a book, but we get to see the process before that with all of the messy papers and the binders. I think that’s pretty cool. The binders offer personality, I think that’s cool. As a published book with the hardcover and the fine print, you just see that as just a book.

TN: I love that! With this graphic, it’s like that’s the scholar with their work behind them. Pretty soon it’s going to be published!

LT: I didn’t notice that. Maybe like a transition.

TN: I love that interpretation of it. Would you like to talk more about the medicine?

LT: There was an empty space above the person and I asked the committee, “What should I put there to convey more of the Indigenous identity?” I’m not traditional so it didn’t come to my mind at first when they suggested sage and a shell. We had bags of shells and sage bundles at the office, and I had mine at my desk so I used that for reference.

TN: I think when the DRIC planning committee recommended medicine, Alexander Soto (the director of ASU’s Labriola National American Indian Data Center) mentioned the O’otham word for medicine in one meeting. When we had him explain it, he said “Medicine bundles!” and we were like, “Ohh, okay!” The imagery clicked for us then. That’s pretty universal — with Alex saying “medicine” in his language and translating it for us, I think that in and of itself, medicine bundles are a universal image for strength for Indigenous peoples. We use medicine as strength in whatever hardships we may have in life.

TN: Are there any future projects you’d like to dive into during your time here at ASU?

LT: One that comes off my mind is that I would like to animate this. It would look cool to see this come to life and just give more artwork to the committee just ’cause I want to and just ’cause this is fun and I want to do that. I think one of the people here in the office said that they want me to do artwork for them because they liked the scribble style that I did and I would like to see more of that. I would like to offer more of that to ASU because I like to think that the comic book, the silly style that I do is very personal to people because it’s easier to relate to than straight-forward graphics. I don’t know how to describe that. I want to make artwork that doesn’t look cookie cutter.

TN: What would you say to fellow Indigenous artists who are also trying to find their voice, their style or their platform?

LT: I would suggest taking inspiration from your tribal communities because being a Kiowa and Mvskoke Native, I’m always looking at old artwork by my people and then I try to see if I can take any of that as inspiration with my other artwork. That obviously gave me my own voice. I got to do cool stuff for the DRIC committee so my need to and want to create my own tribal work for my people is my way of representing myself since I didn’t get the privilege of growing up traditionally. So take inspiration from your own tribal communities to inspire you.

I would like to say don’t take yourself too seriously because it might be holding you back. Don’t take yourself too seriously when you’re really worried about making people happy or pleasing people and then you realize that you might’ve fallen short of that because you’ve been thinking about what they’re thinking, that you forgot why you’re there. Getting too much in your head. ’Cause if you do, you lose inspiration, you lose motivation that makes your artwork feel more like a chore than it is a passion.

Check out Lucilla’s art page and give them a follow!

Also check out Alonzo Coronado’s art page while you’re at it!



ASU - Turning Points Magazine

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