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Article

Canadian, 18th – 19th century, male.

Active in Montreal, Kingston and Amherstburg.

Born 6 January 1791, in London; died 9 December 1873, in Ste-Mélanie d'Ailleboust (Quebec).

Painter, watercolourist, pastellist. Landscapes, insects, Native American subjects.

William Bent Berczy was the son of the German pioneer and painter William Berczy Moll and Charlotte Berczy who settled in Canada shortly after he was born. Berczy learned painting from his father in Montreal, copying Old Masters and painting the backgrounds for his parents paintings. He served with the Corps of Canadian Chasseurs in ...

Article

G. Lola Worthington

(b Wheatfield-Sonsela, AZ, June 17, 1912; d Albuquerque, NM, 1992).

Native American (Navajo) painter. Also known as Hashke-yil-e-dale, Dodge was the son of Bitanny Dodge and grandson of Chee Dodge, the first Navajo Tribal Chairman, who raised him and sent him to Bacone College, Muskogee, OK, and the University of New Mexico, where Dodge earned a degree in anthropology in 1933. He earned a master’s degree in Comparative Linguistics and Anthropology, at Columbia University, in 1935.

During World War II, Dodge was a Code Talker in the South Pacific. Injured after four years in battle, he recuperated from his injuries and began to sketch and paint Navajo history, illustrating the cultural and religious systems from the viewpoint of a Navajo. He believed his paintings offered vital information and explanations to prevent the loss of Navajo ceremonial chants and religious traditions.

Entirely self-taught, he actively began to paint in 1954 and selected specific symbols, colors and stories to best express Navajo practices. Each subject, color, dot or feather, accompanied by his personal insight, symbolically preserved his subjects. Horses, maidens, dancers and swirls reflected balance in his compositions. Intuitive, graceful lines, colors, forms and his subject’s appeal reveal truthful honest representations. The bluebird, symbolic of the Eastern Seagoing people, and the flying swallow, symbolic of the Western Swallow people, were included in his paintings. Mixing neutral background with active flourishes, mysterious uncanny counter color and symbolic graphic line work, his paintings are thrilling and awe-inspiring....

Article

G. Lola Worthington

(b Buffalo, NY, 1950).

Tuscarora artist, writer, educator, and museum director. Hill studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1968–70), and was awarded a Master of Arts degree from SUNY, Buffalo, NY (1980).

Intrigued with Seneca General Ely Parker (General Grant’s Military Secretary), Hill investigated Parker’s life, which took him to Washington, DC, for two years. Hill began to identify with Parker’s experience and realized he would devote himself to enlightening others about Native American arts, knowledge, education, and culture.

Hill was skilled in painting, photography, carving, beading, and basket weaving, and many of these works are located at the Canadian Museum of Civilizations, Quebec; the Woodland Indian Cultural Center, Brantford, Ontario; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK; the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Washington, DC; and the Seneca Iroquois National Museum, Salamanca, NY. He taught at McMaster University, Mohawk College, Six Nations Polytechnic, and SUNY at Buffalo. Hill developed a culturally based Seneca Language curriculum and training models for teaching....

Article

G. Lola Worthington

(b San Francisco, CA, Oct 5, 1937).

Native American (Maidu–Wintu) painter, printmaker, photographer, writer, educator, traditional dancer and poet. LaPena, also known as Tauhindauli, spent time with the Nomtipom Wintu and other regional neighboring elders to conserve and regain traditional cultural practices. He was taught traditional tribal songs, dances and ceremonial rituals of Northern California Native American culture that inspired his interest in reviving and preserving Northern California tribal culture and accompanying performance arts. His work, along with Frank Day (1902–76), a late Maidu elder and painter, aided the founding of the Maidu Dancers and Traditionalists, a group dedicated to carrying out traditional cultural forms and social practices. Earning his bachelor’s degree from California State University (CSU), Chico (1965), and an Anthropology Masters of Arts degree from CSU, Sacramento (1978), he taught for the next 30 years in the CSU, Sacramento American Indian Studies program.

For LaPena, his art was a spiritual act, which empowers the maker with an opportunity to achieve a stronger sense of understanding life. Inspired by prehistoric rock painting, some painted images are depicted in total abstraction, while others illustrate a narrative theme. His strong consciousness of his Californian Native American heritage is distinctive and many themes in his compositions provide a powerful commentary in their depiction of the struggles of Northern California Native Americans; “To let the world know what happened in California, and to the indigenous populations points out that survival issues are still of great concern.” His paintings and prints reached a popular acceptance. LaPena exhibited throughout the United States and internationally at the Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe, NM, the Chicago Art Institute, the San Francisco Museum, the Linder Museum, Stuttgart, the American Arts Gallery, New York, the George G. Heye Center of the Smithsonian, New York, and numerous galleries. In ...

Article

Deborah A. Middleton

Ruled book used for recording accounts used by Native Americans in late 19th century as a paper source for colorful drawings. The emergence of ledger book art is considered to be a material culture link corresponding to the forced relocation of Plains tribes to government reservations in the 19th century. In the early 1860s Plains Indians acquired Western made papers in the form of ledger books and target books, as well as pens, watercolors, graphite and colored pencils, acquired through trade and as proceeds from battles with the American Army, in which they drew scenes that chronicled their experience and cultural traditions. During this early period, the demand for ledger book drawing was high among white settlers who viewed them as curiosities and souvenirs. Contemporary research on Plains Indians ledger book art is challenged by dispersed collections and the fragile and delicate material condition of ledger books due to poor quality paper and bindings. The dismantling of ledger books by art dealers seeking to gain economic profits is the largest threat to preserving these artworks and enabling future research on specific ledger book artists....

Article

Jeff Stockton

(Maurilio )

(b Laredo, TX, 1943).

American painter and printmaker of Mexican and Yaqui descent (mestizo). Peña’s art celebrated the strength of a native people who met the harsh realities of life in an uncompromising land, and his work was a tribute to the Native Americans who survived by living in harmony with an adversarial, untamed environment. His artwork was inspired by places in the Southwest that were part of an enduring landscape and represented the ancient heritage of the region that is now Arizona and New Mexico.

Peña’s work was defined by its bold color and form and dynamic composition. Abstract landscapes merged with human forms, and blanket and pottery patterns entered into the overall design. A prolific artist, Peña produced primarily watercolors and etchings, in addition to drawings, graphics, ceramics and jewelry. Irrespective of the medium, the recurring motif (and Peña’s artistic trademark) was a modeled, angular profile of a Native American man or woman, which he used as a simplified storytelling device....

Article

Canadian First Nations (Inuit), 20th–21st century, female.

Born 1969, in Cape Dorset (Nunavut).

Graphic artist (felt pen, crayon, pencil), printmaker (lithography, stone cut). Contemporary Inuit domestic scenes, social realism.

Active in Cape Dorset from the 1990s, Pootoogook moved to Ottawa after becoming the first indigenous artist to win the prestigious Sobey Art Award in ...

Article

American, 19th – 20th century, male.

Born 27 September 1859, in Bridgeport (Ohio), to Irish parents; died 27 August 1953, in Pasadena (California).

Painter, illustrator. Native Americans, figures, genre scenes, landscapes.

Joseph Henry Sharp moved to Cincinnati at the age of 14 and enrolled in art classes at McMicken School of Drawing and Design. He attended Cincinnati Academy of Art. His studio was in the same building as that of Henry Farny who gave him books on Pueblo Indians. In 1881, he went to Antwerp where he studied history and portrait painting in the realist tradition with Charles Verlat at the Antwerp Academy....

Article

G. Lola Worthington

(b Tahlequah, OK, July 8, 1941; d Muskogee, OK, Aug 13, 1967).

Creek–Seminole painter. Son of Loucinda Lewis and Rev. John Tiger, and father of Dana, Lisa, and Jerome Tiger, who all became recognized artists. Tiger, also known as Kocha, grew up near Eufaula, OK. His youth was spent accompanying and assisting his grandfather’s roving Indian Baptist Church. He learned English at public school in Muskogee, OK, but dropped out of high school. He enrolled at the Engineering Institute in Cleveland, OH, 1963–4, despite not having a high school diploma. He was committed to becoming an artist. Not only inventive and highly prolific, he possessed an uncanny ability to draw virtually anything after a momentary glance.

Producing hundreds of paintings between 1962 and 1967, his natural sense of color, design symmetry, draftsmanship training, and knowledge of anatomy expedited his output. Appealing beauty and spirituality demonstrated to many observers, not just Native American, images recalling emotional connections with preceding historic events. Reminiscences of the dismal treatment of Native American throughout history, without resorting to explicit depictions, provided haunting, poetic, and pensive impressions. His later work became even more eloquent, accompanied by potent shades of mysticism and spirituality. His style was unique and new in Native painting. Delicate and subtle use of line and muted colors brought drama to scenes that conveyed the inhumane treatment of Native Americans. Never going over the top, Tiger nevertheless evoked melancholy emotions. In ...

Article

G. Lola Worthington

[ Yazzie Bahe ; Little Grey ]

(b Rough Rock/Wide Ruins/Chinle, AZ, Nov 19, 1918; d Nov 2000).

Navajo Salt River Bend painter. Son of Navajo artist Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie. Tsinajinnie enjoyed drawing and painting as a child by drawing and carving horses, cows, and sheep on smooth rocks. Later he sketched on wrapping paper and pencils from the local trading post. At 15, he began studying art at the Fort Apache Indian School, Santa Fe, NM. From 1932 to 1936, he attended the Santa Fe Indian School, together with Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo tribal artists. At Santa Fe, he began depicting tribal dances and ceremonies. Under Dorothy Dunn, he perfected his unique painting style. Dunn wrote “he was a paradoxical painter, fluctuating between creations of high artistry and the chameleon aspect of his world.” He became expert at bringing forth exclusive Navajo events, remote people and landscapes. Tsinajinnie served in the South Pacific during 1944–6, and he studied at the Oakland College of Arts in Craft before commencing his artistic career....

Article

G. Lola Worthington

[ Jimmy Toddy ]

(b Wide Ruins, AZ, 1928).

American painter. Bill Lippencott, owner of the Wide Ruins Trading Post, gave Yazz paints and paper, encouraging him to paint at the age of seven. Lippencott and wife Sallie recognized Yazz’s artistic talent and advised him to pursue art seriously. At the age of ten, his work was exhibited by a museum in Springfield, IL. Completing his education at Sherman Indian School, CA, he established himself as an artist with a long national career.

Yazz enlisted in the Marines during World War II as a Navajo Code Talker. After the war, he studied art at Mills College in Oakland, CA, working under Yasuo Kuniyoshi . Returning to the Navajo reservation near Wide Ruins, he earnestly began his artistic painting career.

Painting subjects familiar from his daily reservation life, Yazz specialized in typical daily and ceremonial scenes. His paintings utilize flat minimal backgrounds and suspend his subjects in a floating and entertaining world. The paintings record the natural movement of light and air with powerful drama....

Article

Native American (Diné/Navajo), 20th–21st century, female.

Born 1966, in Ganado (Arizona).

Printmaker, sculptor, painter.

Political and social realism, abstraction, post-colonial themes.

Melanie Yazzie uses a variety of media including photography, sculpture, print, and paint to create personal, autobiographical and socio-political works. Using her Diné heritage as a source of inspiration, her practice draws attention to many key issues facing indigenous peoples. Themes have included issues of racism, misogyny, identity problems, poverty and abuse. Later works have concentrated more on personal issues and storytelling and touch on traditional, contemporary and imagined themes, including depictions of ceremonial life and ritual. Yazzie often collaborates with artists from other indigenous nations in order to raise further awareness and create shared experience through art practice....

Article

Jenifer P. Borum

(b Ash Grove, MO, Feb 20, 1890; d Chicago, IL, Dec 25, 1972).

American painter of African, Cherokee, Creek, and European ancestry. Although Yoakum claimed to have been born on a Navajo reservation in 1888, his birthplace and childhood home has been established as Ash Grove, MO. His aunt was adopted by a Navajo family, and although the artist drew great inspiration from the Navajo, his connection to them was imaginary. Yoakum’s life was indeed one of adventure and travel—he toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, the Ringling Bros. Circus, and also traveled around the world as stow-away and later as a soldier in World War I. Yet the line between fact and fantasy will always be blurred when contending with his lyrical landscapes that ostensibly offer a record of his far-ranging adventures to exotic locales.

While Yoakum began to draw by the 1950s, he did not devote himself to this calling until he had retired in the early 1960s. Settling in Chicago in ...