Monday, February 9, 2015

Artist(s) of the Week: The Plains Indians


The Great Plains region as we define it covers much of 10 states of the United States, comprising nearly one in seven U.S. counties: Colorado,KansasMontanaNebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma,South DakotaTexas, and Wyoming

Dead Calvalry Horses
Artist: Red Horse
Tribe: Lakota

"A profound sense of history has long compelled Indian peoples of the Great Plains to chronicle their lives pictorially. As the nineteenth century progressed, the trickle of white explorers and traders across the continent and up the great rivers turned into a veritable flood tide of soldiers and settlers. Their presence changed Plains life irrevocably. Plains Indians adopted a new medium for recording their visual histories, obtained through their contacts with whites: they began to draw in bound ledger books--commonly used for inventory be traders and military officers--using pens, pencils, and watercolors. They also worked in small notebooks and on drawing paper." (Berlo 1996)

Sinte Riding at a Gallop
Artist: Sinte
Tribe: Lakota

Inspection of Indian Prisoners, Fort Marion
Artist: Making Medicine
Tribe: Cheyenne

Cheyenne Village Scene: Women's Ceremony with Large Hide
Artist: Red Horse
Tribe: Cheyenne
Pencil, crayon, and ink
8-3/4 x 11-1/4 in.

Top: A Meeting with Three Crows
Middle: A Meeting with Two Crow Men and Two Women
Bottom: A Meeting with Three Crows
Artist: Unknown
Tribe: Cheyenne
Watercolor, crayon, and pencil
7-15/16 x 12-1/2 in. each

Troops Assembled Against a Cheyenne Village
Artist: Bear's Heart
Tribe: Cheyenne

Wicoun Pinkte Maka Kin Ta Wicokunze Oyake Pelo
(They Said Treaties Shall Be The Law of the Land)
Artist: Francis Yellow
Tribe: Lakota
Ink on antique map
27-1/2 x 17-1/4 in.

"Plains Indian drawings tell many stories. But writings about these drawings have focused too much on one set of questions, based on European models: Who is the artist? Who is depicted? What are the identifying details of the narrative? These drawings have seldom been treated as complex works of art rather than simple historical or ethnographic documents (Lessard 1992). Yet the unraveling of ethnographic details is only one narrative thread in a complexly woven story. We sadly underestimate the evocative power of these works if we unwind only that thread. To most art historians and Native scholars in the 1990s, what is of greater interest are the subtleties of interpretation involving social, religious, and economic history and artistic biography, which reveal each work as an individual creative phenomenon within a complex social nexus." (Berlo 1996)

In Berlo, J.C. (Ed.) 1996. Plains Indian Drawings 1865-1935: Pages From a Visual History. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers.

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