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Canadian First Nations (Oji-Cree), 20th century, female.

Born 28 March 1971, in Yorkton (Saskatchewan).

Installation artist, ceramicist, photographer, sculptor, printmaker.

KC Adams studied at Concordia University, in Montreal, Quebec, where she received her BFA in Studio Arts in 1998. Her artistic practice was further developed through artists’ residencies in Canada, at institutions in Banff, Charlottetown and Winnipeg. During her ...

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G. Lola Worthington

(b Santa Rosa, CA, Sept 22, 1899; d California, Dec 31, 1990).

Native American (Pomo-Comanche) basketweaver. Taken from her family to attend an Indian boarding school in Covelo, CA, Allen’s father, George Allen, of the Ukiah Pomo, and her mother, Annie Burke (1876–1962), of the Comanche, allowed Elsie’s grandmother Nellie Burke to raise and teach her about Pomo basketry techniques near Cloverdale, CA. A matrilineal skill passed down from mother to daughter, Pomo tradition requires the burial with the deceased of all baskets created during an artist’s lifetime. Annie Burke did not want Pomo basket artistry to die out and demanded that Allen not bury her with her baskets. Allen broke with tradition and kept her mother’s baskets.

In 1919 she married Arthur Allen of the Pinoleville Pomo tribe. Over the next 30 years, Allen devoted herself to education and adding baskets to the family collection. In 1980, her grandniece Susie Billy became her apprentice. Studying for five years, Billy developed her Pomo basket weaving knowledge and increased efforts to preserve Pomo basket cultural traditions. Allen’s oldest daughter, Genevieve Allen Aguilar (...

Article

Native American (Choctaw), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1959, in Phoenix.

Beadworker, painter, fashion designer, glass artist , performance artist.

Marcus Amerman is a distinguished Choctaw artist who works in a number of media and in performance (as a figure called ‘Buffalo Man’) but is best known for creating his own approach to the Native American tradition of beadworking. Amerman has a BA in Fine Art from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and also studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and the Anthropology Film Center. He lives and works north of Santa Fe. Amerman uses a highly mimetic style in his beadwork to recreate, and hence reclaim, Indian images from history, as in his beaded version of the famous D.F. Barry photograph, ...

Article

Canadian First Nations (Inuit), 20th century, female.

Born 1927, in South Ikerasak/Ikerrasak (Baffin Island). Died January 2013.

Sculptor (stone/plaster), engraver, lithographer, watercolourist, draughtsman. Birds and animals.

Kenojuak Ashevak produced some of the most widely recognized and appreciated Inuit art of her generation and due to her success was able to transcend her role as an artist to hold an iconic status within Canadian national consciousness. She began stone-cutting in the 1950s but soon became better known for her skills in drawing and printmaking. Two of her prints were selected to appear on Canadian postage stamps. With several other Cape Dorset Inuit and with the guidance of James Houston, an early promoter of Inuit art, she formed the West Baffin Cooperative Print Studio in ...

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Canadian First Nations (Inuit), 20th century, female.

Born 1907/1908, in Toojak (Nottingham Island, Nunavut); died 28 May 1983, in Cape Dorset (Nunavut).

Graphic artist (felt pen/crayon/pencil), printmaker (stonecut/etching/copper plate).

Figures domestic scenes and traditional Inuit fables.

Pitseolak Ashoona, a self-taught graphic artist, began drawing the ‘old ways’ of traditional Inuit pre-contact life for the Cape Dorset Artist Co-op (also known as Dorset Fine Art) set up by James Hudson in ...

Article

Canadian First Nations (We Wai Kai/Cape Mudge Band), 21st century, male.

Born 1975, in Richmond (British Columbia).

Painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer.

The aesthetic of Sonny Assu (Liǥwilda’x̱w/Laich-kwil-tach) is a confluence of Northwest Coast formline motifs and popular Western culture. He is well versed in the traditional Kwakwaka’wakw arts of drum, blanket and basket making and uses these as the starting place of many of his artworks. Drawing on a pop sensibility, mass-media culture is used as a conduit to explore and expose these Kwakwaka’wakw traditions as well as the artist’s own mixed heritage. By bringing these seemingly desperate elements together, Assu’s works challenge popular notions of authenticity regarding Indigenous people and their art. Moreover, while the works may appear whimsical at first glance, they offer a sharp critique of Western society’s culture of consumption as it relates to colonisation, both historical and ongoing, in North America....

Article

Native American (Wiyot and Yurok), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1946, in Newport (Oregon).

Sculptor, painter, ceramicist, mixed-media artist, print-maker.

Rick Bartow of the Wiyot and Yurok Nations of Northern California works in a number of media to create images which often reference indigenous North American transformation myths. His work with the Maori artist John Bevan Ford has also been an influence. In ...

Article

Canadian First Nations (Ojibwa), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1942 or 1943, in M’chigeeng (West Bay), Manitoulin Island. Died 2005, Ottawa.

Draughtsman, painter, ceramicist, installation artist.

Carl Beam, a distinguished Ojibwa artist, was the first Canadian indigenous artist to gain recognition for contemporary Native American art by having one of his pieces accepted into the National Gallery of Art (Ottawa). He achieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Victoria, and ...

Article

Arthur Silberman

(d White Cone, AZ, Nov 15, 1917).

Native American Navajo painter. Begay was a prolific artist for over 50 years, and his work is familiar through paintings, book illustrations and screenprints, making him perhaps the best-known contemporary Native American painter. In 1934 he entered the Santa Fe Indian School (see Native North American art, §IV, 2) and joined the ‘Studio’ of Dorothy Dunn (1903–1990), where he was one of Dunn’s star students. In 1939, the year of his graduation, he painted one of the murals on the façade of Maisel’s trading post in Albuquerque, NM. With a scholarship from the Indian Commission, he went on to study architecture at Black Mountain College, NC.. Due to the public’s ready acceptance of his paintings, after his return from military service in World War II he became one of the first Native American artists to support himself by painting full-time. Widely exhibited, he was a consistent award-winner at exhibitions, and his work has been included in every important public and private collection of Native American art. In recognition of his contributions to Native American art he was awarded the French government’s Palmes Académiques in ...

Article

Canadian First Nations (Anishinaabe), 20th century, female.

Born 22 March 1960, in Upsala (Ontario).

Performance artist, installation artist, sculptor, video artist.

Rebecca Belmore was sent from her home to attend high school in Thunder Bay (Ontario), where she was billeted with a non-Aboriginal family. She graduated from the experimental art programme at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and Design in ...

Article

Charlotte Townsend-Gault

(b Upsala, Ontario, March 22, 1960).

Native American, Canadian installation and performance artist of Anishinabe descent. She attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto (1984–6), emerging among newly visible and influential First Nations figures in the arts in Canada whose work focused on the social, political and historical issues associated with their ethnic identity. The period was marked by the acknowledgement of aboriginal rights in the amended 1982 Canadian Constitution and by confrontations, sometimes violent, between indigenous people and the authorities over the nature and extent of those rights. Outrage at the tragic consequences of the historical marginalisation of native people and determination to recover their voice has always informed Belmore’s work. In the iconic Talking to their Mother (1991), which brought her wide attention, she travelled to Native American communities with an enormous, finely crafted wooden megaphone, literally giving people a voice with which to speak to their land....

Article

Marvin Cohodas

Native American Pomoan basket-weavers. William Benson (1862–1937) was Eastern Pomo and his wife, Mary Benson (1878–1930), was Central Pomo. Both had Euro-American fathers. After marriage in 1894, they lived at the Central Pomo settlement of Yokaya, CA. Their first promoter was John Hudson (1857–1936), Ukiah medical doctor and amateur anthropologist, who took them to the fair in St Louis, MO, in 1904. Accustomed to dealing with Euro-Americans, William served as informant for the anthropologists Edwin M. Loeb and Jaime de Angulo and became the local agent for Grace Nicholson, a noted Pasadena basketwork dealer, for whom he made ceremonial costumes and implements and wrote down Pomo myths. In 1906 Nicholson acquired exclusive rights to baskets woven by both William and Mary in return for a monthly maintenance fee plus costs for materials and payment for the baskets. Nicholson promoted and publicized the Bensons and brought them to spend the winter of ...

Article

Frederick J. Dockstader

(b Pine Springs, AZ, c. 1910; d New Mexico, 1957).

Native American Navajo silversmith. He learnt the art as a young man from his half-brother John and an older Navajo, Left Handed Red, then branched out on his own. He became a successful silversmith, and with his wife Mabel was one of the most active craftsmen in the area, not far from the Hubbell Trading Post, AZ. During the fieldwork of ethnographer John Adair (b 1913) they became well acquainted, and Burnsides was a primary source for most of Adair’s study; Adair’s subsequent publication (1944) gave Burnsides a status that caused collectors to prize his work. Tom and Mabel were frequently called upon to tour and demonstrate their silversmithing and weaving skills, and they made several world trips under the auspices of the US Government Office of Information and of the State Department. Both were killed in a car accident.

J. Adair: The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths...

Article

G. Lola Worthington

[Hashke-yil-e-dale]

(b Utah, 1938; d 1972).

Native American (Navajo) painter. His mother recognized his artistic talents early on and strongly encouraged and cultivated his creative genius by enrolling him at the Intermountain Indian School in Brigham, UT, where he was a student of Chiricahua painter and sculptor, Allan Houser (1914–94).

Enlisting in the US Army, from 1958 to 1961, Chee was assigned to paint several murals instead of regular duties. After his discharge, he began a full-time artistic career. A key post-World War II Southwestern painter, his work influenced other Indian artists. His unique style depicts traditional subjects with a modern Navajo outlook in his favorite media, watercolor.

Chee’s painting technique reflects the “Studio” style of Dorothy Dunn (1903–91). Flat-backgrounds, Indian-styled themes, bright colors characterize the Studio painting format. Expanding upon the Studio style, Chee began arranging his subjects in clustered groupings, only hinting at a background with a few suggestive, lively lines. Arranging his central figures with intimacy and detail, he sensitively portrayed and highlighted their character....

Article

Native American (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa Nation, Ojibwe), 20th century, female.

Born 1967, in Michigan.

Black ash basket weaver, painter.

Kelly Jean Church received an Associate of Arts degree from the Institute of American Indian Studies in 1996, a Bachelor of Arts degree in painting/sculpture from the University of Michigan in ...

Article

Native American (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1946, in Montana.

Printmaker, photographer, conceptual artist, installation artist.

Corwin Clairmont, or ‘Corky’, received his MFA from California State University, Los Angeles in 1971. His early work, concerning social and environmental issues, earned him a Ford Foundation Grant (...

Article

Margaret Moore Booker

(b Cow Springs, AZ, March 21, 1946).

Native American potter. The daughter of famed Navajo potter Rose Williams, Cling broke with tradition by creating highly polished, red-hued decorative ware in a contemporary style that ushered in a new generation of Navajo art potters (including her two sisters).

After graduating from the Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, UT, she married Jerry Cling and worked as a teacher’s aide at the Shonto Boarding School. Initially learning to pot from her mother while a young girl, she became interested in the craft in the 1970s and over time developed an innovative style that reflected her own individual vision.

Cling used the traditional method of coiling and pinching clay into the desired form, then sanded, polished and coated her pottery with piñon pitch. She worked in the small communal room of her home in the Shonto-Cow Springs region of Arizona, watched by her mother, who lived across the highway. Her pots were fired outdoors in an open pit with juniper wood (and sometimes sheep manure) for fuel....

Article

Arnold Berke

(b Pittsburgh, PA, April 4, 1869; d Santa Fe, NM, January 8, 1958).

American architect and designer. Raised in St Paul, MN, Mary (Elizabeth Jane) Colter graduated in 1890 from the California School of Design in San Francisco, then taught mechanical drawing at a St Paul high school and contributed to local Arts and Crafts societies as lecturer and craftswoman. These pursuits nourished Colter’s love of Native American art and the Southwest, interests also fostered by her first professional projects—the interior of the Indian Building at the Santa Fe Railway’s Albuquerque station (1902) and the Grand Canyon’s Hopi House (1904), modeled on an Indian village. She completed both for her lifelong employer, the Fred Harvey Co., the famous purveyor of travel services, which hired her full-time in 1910.

Colter designed hotels, train stations, tourist attractions, restaurants and shops—at the Grand Canyon and along the Santa Fe line. She based her designs on Native American and Hispanic cultures and on the western landscape, and, through rigorous research, fashioned environments to charm the leisure traveler. The most dramatic is the Watchtower (...

Article

G. Lola Worthington

(b Cochiti Pueblo, NM, 1915; d Cochiti Pueblo, NM, July 24, 1994).

Native American (Cochiti) potter. Best known as inventor of the “Cochiti Pueblo Storyteller figure,” Cordero is credited with innovation and regarded as a true folk artist. Unable to master traditional pottery forms such as bowls and vases, she produced other craftworks, such as leather and beadwork for sale, later turning to pottery as an alternative income source. Dissatisfied and frustrated with her clay skills, her cousin suggested she try to create figures. She recalled it was “like a flower blooming.”

Always living and following the Cochiti way of life, she dug and prepared natural clay and pigments. Not working from a studio, she preferred to work outdoors in all weather conditions. She created tiny birds and animals and produced numerous figures for sale. Eventually she created the Cochiti Storyteller figure. Considered debased idol worship by the Spanish, the Pueblo figurative pottery tradition had been repressed. Cordero created her first small Storyteller figure in ...

Article

Martine Reid

(b Masset, Queen Charlotte Islands, BC, Nov 4, 1946).

Native American Haida sculptor, metalworker, printmaker and blanket-maker. He was the grandson of the Haida blanket- and basket-maker Florence Davidson (1895–1993), and great-grandson of the Haida wood-carver Charles Edenshaw. He began carving argillite as a teenager in Masset, and in 1966 he met Bill Reid, who offered him workshop space in Vancouver. There Davidson developed new carving skills and learnt the fundamentals of the two-dimensional (‘formline’) designs used by the Haida and other tribes of the northern Northwest Coast (see Native North American art, §III, 2). In 1969 he returned to Masset to carve a 12.2 m-high totem pole, the first heraldic column to be raised on the Queen Charlotte Islands since the end of the 19th century. In 1987 Davidson and his crew produced a set of three totem poles entitled Three Variations on Killer Whale Myths for the Pepsicola Sculptural Garden in Purchase, NY. In these totem poles Davidson worked within the strict conventions of the Haida style, refining it by introducing subtle variations in design but preserving a degree of conservative austerity in which movement and individual expression are sacrificed to overall unity of form. In his early work in silver Davidson used flat patterns influenced by Edenshaw, and he went on to develop these into an innovative style of his own in screenprints, silver and bronze. Davidson’s younger brother, ...