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Article

Martine Reid

[Smoky-Top; Hilamas]

(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 ...

Article

Arthur Silberman

[Haungooah]

(b Western Oklahoma, 1861; d Stecker, Oklahoma, Dec 14, 1940).

Native American Kiowa draughtsman, silversmith and beadworker. He was the son of Chief Dohasan III, keeper of one of the Kiowa pictographic calendar counts, and younger brother of Ohettoint (1852–1934), one of the Fort Marion artist–prisoners also known as Charlie Buffalo (see Native North American art, §IV, 2 and Howling Wolf). Silverhorn was a key cultural figure and the most significant and prolific Native American artist in the last part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th. He probably learnt pictography at an early age. As a ceremonial leader, he was keeper of one of the sacred Kiowa medicine bundles. As a craftsman, he produced beadwork, war bonnets and jewellery made from German silver, an alloy of nickel, copper and zinc. For anthropologists, he illustrated religious ceremonies, myths and folklore, and painted model tipis and shields. Most of his works on paper and muslin are romantic evocations of the past and do not refer to specific events or individuals. An exception to his general output is the ...

Article

Frank Kempster

[ Grey Squirrel ]

(b Sheep Springs, NM, 1922; d Gallup, NM, April 23, 1983).

Navajo sand painter. Stevens, also known as Grey Squirrel, was a Navajo artist and ceremonial singer known for furthering the practice of permatizing sand paintings. He was born into the Kinyaà áanii clan. As a boy his father taught him the Blessingway chant and Stevens conducted his first ceremony when he was 18. Sand painting was a part of some ceremonies.

Beginning in 1946, Stevens gave roadside demonstrations of sand painting near a tourist shop near Lupton, AZ, and experimented with permatizing his work but he was not satisfied with the results. In 1952 he began working with Luther Douglas, an Anglo artist from Sun Valley, ID, and tried various methods to improve his technique. He worked with Otomi artist David Villaseñor who developed a permatizing method that became a hobby kit sold on the railroad lines to entertain passengers. Once Stevens settled on a method, other Navajo artists began emulating his technique. He accommodated the publicity of his sand painting technique, which accelerated the acceptance of sand painting as an art form. In the late 1950s, he performed over 100 demonstrations on live television as well as at the Arizona State Fair and Arizona State Museum....

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

(b Arizona, 1950).

American jeweler, sculptor, painter, and silversmith, of Mescalero Apache–Navajo descent. White Eagle began his career as a silversmith under the tutelage of legendary Navajo artisan Fred Peshlakai , at age five, learning by observation and developing an artistic understanding of Peshlakai’s aesthetic approach. At nine, he began making and selling his own jewelry at Union Square in Los Angeles. Later moving to Palm Springs, CA he continued to generate and sell his jewelry on the street under the date palms trees.

Always handmade, his jewelry pieces used the finest available quality of semi-precious stones. Singular details and features demonstrated his exclusive and unique artistic vision and styling. In 1973, the Yacqui artist, Art Tafoya, began a silversmith apprenticeship with White Eagle, studying the hand-stamped old style embossing skills of jewelry; he continued the historic creation of extraordinary designs.

Bold and substantial, White Eagle’s jewelry balanced a focal fluid turquoise stone against deeply carved flora and linear design lines. His pieces represented transcultural combinations of traditional Navajo silver interwoven with mainstream expectations of Native American style. He daringly counterbalanced mixed semi-precious stonework with irregular fusions of silver positive space. Smooth, amazingly detailed stamp work combined with bent offset features providing an overall asymmetrical daring quality....

Article

Arthur Silberman

[Honanisto]

(b c. 1850; d Waurika, OK, July 5, 1927).

Native American Southern Cheyenne draughtsman. He was one of the most talented and innovative of the artists imprisoned between 1875 and 1878 at Fort Marion, St Augustine, FL (see Native North American art, §IV, 1, (iv)). The drawings in his and others’ “sketchbooks” transformed traditional Plains art and brought to it a balance, symmetry, rhythm and decorativeness seldom encountered before. Howling Wolf was arrested in 1875 after the Red River War and, charged with being a ringleader, was imprisoned without trial in Fort Marion. There, encouraged by Capt. Richard Henry Pratt (1840–1924), he filled sketchbooks for sale with drawings of life on the Plains and occasional portrayals of the journey to prison and life at the fort. He abandoned most of the old warrior art style of picture writing, suited to conveying detailed information about war deeds, and instead created a number of deliberately composed works with strong design elements. On return from prison, he at first urged his people to follow the Bible Road. Then, disillusioned by conditions on the reservation and by his own poverty, he obtained the chieftaincy of the Bowstrings, a warrior society resisting Euro-American encroachment. He also resumed attending the Sun Dance and later joined the Native American Church, the Peyote religion. After he became disillusioned Howling Wolf also resumed depicting his war exploits and contributed drawings to at least one fellow warrior’s sketchbook (untraced). The latest sketchbook known to have been produced by him was done for an ethnologist (...

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

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 ...