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 ...
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 ...
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....
Jenifer P. Borum
(b Dallas, GA, Oct 11, 1928; d Alcoa, TN, Aug 12, 1994).
Sculptor of African American and Native American heritage. Born to Homer and Rosie Mae White, Bessie Ruth White was the seventh of 13 children. She married Charles Harvey at age 14, and moved with him to Buena Vista, GA. She later separated from Harvey and moved to Alcoa, TN, where she settled and raised 11 children as a single mother.
Throughout most of her adult life, Harvey experienced visions that did not engage the dogma of her Christian faith, but rather revealed a powerful divine presence in nature. After the death of her mother in 1974, she began to see faces in the dead branches and roots found in the woods near her home in Aloca, and believed them to be animated by spirits. By adorning these roots and branches with paint, costume jewelry and found materials, Harvey revealed the identity of the spirits locked therein—some Biblical and some lost African ancestors. She understood her role as that of a conduit for divine intelligence, claiming “God is the artist in my work.”...
(b Karuk territory, CA, July 26, 1875; d Somesbar, CA, July 19, 1947).
Native American basket-weaver. She was born of a Wiyot mother and Euro-American father. She achieved a secure life with her second marriage, in 1895, to Luther Hickox, a half-blood miner and mill-owner who later became Justice of the Peace. She directed her weaving to the élite market, specializing in a lidded ‘gift basket’ with undulating profile and a high knob. On these she delineated main designs with supreme attention to the relationship of positive and negative elements and embellished them with a complex scheme of bordering designs and shifts in weaving technique. Her second daughter, Louise Hickox (b 29 April 1896; d 18 Sept 1962), also a basket-weaver, achieved almost equal results. Both were interviewed extensively by anthropologist Lila O’Neale in 1928 and provided most of the technical information for O’Neale’s 1932 publication of Yurok–Karok basketwork. Their baskets were featured in a 1990 exhibition at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles. In ...
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....
G. Lola Worthington
(b Alert Bay, BC, Canada, 1950).
Kwakwaka’wakw woodcarver. Hunt’s maternal grandfather, Mungo Martin (Kwa-giulth; 1879–1962), was one of the last living carvers on northern Vancouver Island, founder of the Thunderbird Park program in Victoria and one of the first to formulate Kwakwaka’wakw sculptural and painting styles. His paternal father, George Hunt, was an ethnologist, while his brothers, Tony and Stanley, also worked as woodcarvers.
Raised in Victoria British Columbia, and the first to finish high school, his encouraging teacher, who respected his culture, let him carve. Under his father, he became an apprentice in the Carving Program at Thunderbird Park, next to the British Columbia Provincial Museum.
At 21, Hunt assumed the title of Chief Carver at Thunderbird Park, a post held for 12 years. Resigning in 1986, Hunt began his independent artistic career. He is the first Native artist inducted into the Order of British Columbia, 1991, and in 1994 became a member of the Order of Canada. The University of Victoria awarded him an honorary doctorate in ...
[Jameson, Charles; Yakuglas]
(b Port Townsend, WA, c. 1870; d Alert Bay, BC, 1938).
Native American Kwakiutl wood-carver. He was the son of Kugwisi’la’ogwa, a Kwakiutl woman from Fort Rupert, BC, and a white American sawmill owner from Port Townsend. When his mother died in 1877, he was adopted by her tribe and inherited the right to work as a wood-carver, receiving training from a kinsman. As a child, James’s left hand was injured in a shotgun accident, and he probably began carving because he was unable to participate in other activities. He was one of the first Kwakiutl wood-carvers to establish a reputation outside his own society, and he is best known for the hundreds of small totem poles he carved for sale to non-natives in the last 20–30 years of his life. James also produced traditional objects, including totem poles and masks, for use in potlatches and other Kwakiutl social events. The mask of Sisiutl, the dangerous ‘double-headed serpent’ (before 1914; Victoria, BC, Prov. Mus.), for example, was used in the Tlásulá (‘weasel dance’), one of the two principal ceremonial complexes in Kwakiutl society. James was instrumental in establishing what might be termed the Fort Rupert substyle of Southern Kwakiutl art, introducing new forms and the use of colour (...
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 ...
(b Washoe territory, CA–NV border, c. 1850; d Carson City, NV, Dec 6, 1925).
American basket-weaver of Native American Washoe descent. She worked, originally as a laundress, for Abe Cohn (1859–1934) and Amy Cohn (1861–1919), owners of the Emporium Co. clothing store in Carson City, NV. With their encouragement, she created a fine art curio style of basketwork, imitated by most Washoe weavers, and by 1897 she had developed the coiled, spheroid degikup basket type, finely decorated with red (redbud) and black (bracken fern) designs in a scattered arrangement. She also created a collection of miniature baskets for Amy Cohn and made simpler twined basketwork souvenirs. She spent winters at the Emporium Co. in Carson City and summers at their outlet, The Bicose, at Tahoe City, Lake Tahoe, CA. In 1922 a short documentary film was made about her work, and in 1925 Edward S(heriff) Curtis photographed her at the Emporium. Amy Cohn kept a ledger of Dat So La Lee’s baskets, recording their dimensions, dates of inception and completion, along with her interpretation of the designs. The ledger is preserved in the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, which also houses over a dozen of Dat So La Lee’s major works. Most of the information promulgated by Amy Cohn about Dat So La Lee was fabricated to make her appear more traditional and less innovative, including giving her a birth date before the start of continued Euro-American influence in the region. In contrast to her treatment of other weavers, Amy Cohn referred to Dat So La Lee by her Washoe name, disregarding the weaver’s own preference to interact with Euro-American society under her English name, Louisa Keyser. Amy Cohn promoted her as an ‘Indian Princess’, claiming special family rights to basket shapes and designs. She also fabricated a ceremonial function and design vocabulary for Dat So La Lee’s baskets and interpreted them as records of Washoe history and mythology. As Abe Cohn considered her major pieces to be works of art, he demanded high prices and in ...
(b New York, 1845; d after 1911).
American sculptor. Born to an African American father and a Native American mother, she was the first black American sculptor to achieve national prominence. During her early childhood she travelled with her family in the Chippewa tribe, by whom she was known as Wildfire. At 12 she attended school at Albany, NY (1857–9), then a liberal arts course at Oberlin College, OH (1860–63). Lewis then went to Boston (1863) to study with Edward Brackett (1818–1908) and Anne Whitney. Her medallion of the abolitionist John Browne and a bust of the Civil War hero Col. Robert Shaw were exhibited at the Soldiers’ Relief Fair (1864), Boston; the latter sold over 100 plaster copies, enabling Lewis to travel to Rome (1865). There she was introduced to the White Marmorean Flock, a group of women sculptors, including Harriet Hosmer and Emma Stebbins...
G. Lola Worthington
(b Santa Clara Pueblo, NM, Jan 26, 1932).
Native American (Santa Clara Pueblo) potter. A renowned potter and member of the Tafoya family, his father, Camilio Sunflower Tafoya, revived ancestral traditional pottery forms and techniques and his sister, Grace Medicine Flower, was also a successful potter. Camilio produced Santa Clara’s first carved black and brick red pots characteristic of Mimbres pottery. Of his Pueblo upbringing, LoneWolf recalled, “We’d sit in the evenings and do beadwork, drawing, painting, clay modeling, woodworking, costume repairing … while our grandparents told us the old legend and stories.”
LoneWolf was a precision mining equipment machinist until 1971 when a back injury forced him to retire. The job provided him with an awareness of natural Colorado clays, which when heated or fired produce different colors and various effects from the local imbedded metals and chemicals. After his accident, he turned to pottery for a new career that coincided with his family’s pottery revival....
G. Lola Worthington
(b Nice, CA, Jan 12, 1907; d May 31, 1993).
Native-American (Long Valley Cache Creek Pomo) basket weaver. Her father, Yanta Boone, was Potter Valley Pomo and her mother, Daisy Hansen, was Losel Cache Creek Pomo, and McKay was raised by her maternal grandmother, Sarah Taylor. Described as an unusually quiet and sickly child, she frequently talked and screamed during her sleep. Hearing her mumble, Sarah, understood Mabel was a Dreamer, an individual contacted by a Spirit. As a medium between the spiritual and the human world, the Spirit directed her to become a healer in her Pomo community and instructed her in techniques of healing and basket weaving. Her baskets represent a tangible object communicated by the Spirit for medicinal treatments.
Many consider her the last Dreamer of the Pomo people and also a prodigy at basket making. Never “taught” to weave a basket, she asserted the Spirit strictly instructed her when she slept to create baskets. She considered her baskets as only for healing and not beautiful or attractive objects. Nevertheless, the graceful detail of her baskets brought her worldwide attention. Her baskets are collected and exhibited abroad and in the United States in museum collections....
(b Southern Plains, c. 1847; d nr Kingfisher, OK, Oct 2, 1917).
Native American Southern Cheyenne artist. In his younger years Buffalo Meat lived the ordinary life of the buffalo-hunting Plains Indians. He married c. 1867. On 3 April 1875 he was arrested at the Cheyenne Agency, Indian Territory, OK, with the charge of participating in the murder of a Euro-American immigrant family. He was sentenced to imprisonment without a trial or hearing, along with 71 other Native American Indians. They arrived at Fort Marion, FL, on 21 May 1875. Encouraged by the fort’s commander, 26 of the younger prisoners started to produce an enormous amount of pencil, ink and crayon drawings depicting their former lives. It became known as ‘ledger book art’ and soon a white market developed for it (see Ledger book; see also Native North American art, §IV, 1, (iv)). Buffalo Meat made his first known drawings during this imprisonment, although he probably produced some art before his arrest. He departed for the reservation on ...
G. Lola Worthington
(b Santa Clara Pueblo, NM, 1938).
Native American (Santa Clara Pueblo) potter. Her father Camilio Sunflower Tafoya, mother Agapita and aunt Margaret Tafoya revived ancestral pottery techniques characteristic of Mimbres pottery. Furthermore, they fabricated superior black and brick red carved-incised pottery forms. A member of the renowned Tafoya family, she, along with her father and brother, Joseph LoneWolf, further revived and expanded pottery forms and techniques in Santa Clara.
Surrounded by celebrated and respected potters, she began making traditional pottery. In the late 1960s, along with her brother Joseph, she began etching designs directly onto the clay using a Sgraffito method. Grace’s work, elegant and aesthetically ingenious, transforms pottery into phenomenal and celebrated showpieces.
Many steps are involved in creating her wares from locally obtained clay. Innovative combined techniques of polished polychrome clay with incised sgraffito produce spectacular creative objects. Coil built, dried, hand polished to a smooth finish with stone or painted with clay slips, she will often add additional color to the body. The contrast of matte clay against polished surface juxtaposes intricately layered designs with negative spaces. After the slip completely dries, she carves fine-line storytelling illustrations into the greenware clay. Polished steel cutting tools produce the very precise and painstaking ...
(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....
G. Lola Worthington
(b Navajo Reservation, 1896; d 1972).
Native American (Navajo) silversmith. Peshlakai is the son of Slender Maker of Silver, Beshtlagai-ithline-athlososigi, and nephew of Peshlagai Atsidfi and Slender Maker Old Silversmith, all foremost of the first generation of named Navajo silversmiths. Recognized among their peers as “innovators” in new forms of jewelry, his family refined and complemented the older Spanish techniques and influences from Mexican plateros. Learning the techniques and expertise of silversmithing from his father and uncles, Peshlakai became single-handedly recognized for his blending of elaborate and high-quality precise silver and turquoise jewelry work techniques. Analogous with his father’s work, he innovated and promoted stamp work and wire twist skills into uncommon, fresh artistry fashioning pieces into pioneering new forms of harmony and sturdiness. Until his death, he refined his silversmith techniques. Commencing his personalized fabrications in the 1920s, his pieces became immensely popular during the 1930s and 1940s, but his finest works were created during a period from1940 through ...
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 ...
(b Blunden Harbour, BC, c. 1873; d Blunden Harbour, 1967).
Native American Kwakiutl wood-carver. Hereditary chief of the ’Nak’waxda’wx lineage, he was the most distinctive of Kwakiutl carvers. He carved the full range of objects used in Southern Kwakiutl society, from totem poles and painted house-fronts to masks and whistles, as well as miniature totem poles for sale to non-natives.
Seaweed’s early pieces reflected the more restrained, classic style that typified Southern Kwakiutl carving of the late 19th century. By the 1940s he had developed a flamboyant style that later became associated with wood-carvers of the Blunden Harbour–Smith Inlet region (see ). These later works are marked by a clarity in painted design and carved planes, an emphasis on the treatment of the eye and nostrils and a dramatic expression, but were still within the design tradition of the Northwest Coast. At first Seaweed prepared his own paints by adding pigments to fish-egg oil, using them to create a soft, matt finish, but from the 1930s he adopted commercial enamel paints, which served to enhance the theatrical effect of his work. The compass, used by other carvers of the region, enabled Seaweed to draw the distinctive eye area and to incorporate arcs and circles into the designs of his carvings. His work culminated in the production of dance masks such as the ‘monster-bird’ masks used in the ...
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....