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Article

Frederick J. Dockstader

(María Antonia) [Quah Ah: ‘White Coral Beads’ or ‘Little Pink Shell (Beads)’]

(b May 10, 1893; d Sept 9, 1949).

Native American Pueblo painter of San Ildefonso Pueblo, NM. Peña was the daughter of Ascensión Vigil Peña and Natividad Peña but was brought up by her aunt, Martina Vigil, a prominent Cochití Pueblo potter. She attended elementary school at San Ildefonso and the Santa Fe Indian School, where she was a child prodigy, producing successful sketches at the age of seven. Ten years later, she was a recognized professional artist. She was an instructor at the Santa Fe Indian School and at the Albuquerque Indian School and became the most influential Native American woman artist of her time, a dominant force in the maturing of contemporary Native American art. Affectionately titled the ‘Grand Old Lady of Pueblo Art’, she was a major success in painting and generously shared her skills with younger artists, many of whom owe their careers to her influence. Her medium was primarily pen-and-ink embellished with watercolour, the favourite medium of the early 1920s and 1930s, since professional materials were rarely available to most Native American artists. She executed several wall paintings in New Mexico, was a featured participant in the ...

Article

G. Lola Worthington

[ Running Rabbit ]

(b Lodge Grass, Crow Reservation, MT, Oct 9, 1943).

Native American (Crow) painter. His parents, both traditional Native artists, provided a nurturing artistic environment to assist his early developing talents. His outstanding expressive abilities enabled his selection as one of the first 150 students to attend the experimental American Indian Institute for the Arts (IAIA) in 1962–5. There he learned art fundamentals from the finest and most famous of Native American teachers. He was subsequently awarded a scholarship from the San Francisco Art Institute (1965–6) and completed his studies at Montana State University in Bozeman and Eastern Montana College in Billings (1968–9). He returned to IAIA in 1974 as an Artist-in-Residence, beginning his initial inquiry into stone lithography, serigraphy and etching print work.

Intensely brilliant primary colors and allegorical lighting are hallmarks of his approach. A mix of culture and history, past and present, evoke images of his ancestral Crow tribe through exaggerated features and haunting eyes. Canvases incorporate integrated materials for a deeper tactile veneer. Hand finished acrylic paint and ink incorporate collage materials to add deeper effects on the canvas. Dimensional surfaces evoke deeper associations in the observer’s experience. Paintings and prints devised by Red Star create evocative imagery and emotional authentic connections equal to other international art movements. A pivotal figure in contemporary Native American art he depicts his subjects in exaggerated colors and costuming, but remains true to his Northern Plains background. His work is not political in content, but instead records the familiar history of his Crow Nation....

Article

Frederick J. Dockstader

(b Albuquerque, NM, May 25, 1948).

Native American Hopi weaver and painter. The daughter of an Anglo mother and a Hopi father, she is one of the most complicated personalities in contemporary Native American art. She attended Santa Fe School and Verde Valley School but did not enter the world of art until 1982. Her interest in exploring ancient as well as modern techniques has led her into the intricacies of a turkey feather cape and of an Inca shawl. In company with the few other weavers deeply concerned with their craft, she valued the involvement of the preparation of the handspun and dyed yarn as much as the execution of the weaving. She adopted the horizontal loom in order to facilitate her experimental work. She has also taught and lectured on various facets of textile art. A commission to turn the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright into textiles was echoed in her own Wright series, although the two are from totally different generations. Many of her designs combine Modernist elements with traditional motifs, as in ...

Article

Frederick J. Dockstader

[‘Insightful Awareness’]

(b St Ignatius, Flathead Reservation, MT, 1940).

Native American Cree–Métis–Shoshoni painter and printmaker. Her name comes from her Shoshoni grandmother. She took the Famous American Art Course in high school, then eventually earned an AA degree at Olympic College, Bremerton, WA; a BA degree at Framingham State College, MA; and an MFA degree at the University of New Mexico. Her paintings include work in nearly every medium, but she favours oil and acrylic. Although her Indian identity is central to her art, works like Tree of Life (1987; Jersey City, NJ, Mus.) reveal a modernist identity as well. She was heavily influenced by the formal innovations of artists ranging from Joan Miró, Paul Klee, and Vasily Kandinsky to Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns. Her work, which she termed ‘nomad art’, varies tremendously in both quality and subject matter, but there is no doubt that from the 1980s she has been one of the most influential figures of Native North American art. She has curated dozens of exhibits featuring Native American artists, exhibited widely and enjoyed national recognition. An articulate speaker, she has been an outspoken activist for feminist, human rights, and environmental causes, and her art reflects these concerns, as in ...

Article

Arthur Silberman

(b Tuba City, AZ, 1921; d Santa Fe, NM, Nov 11, 1956).

Native American Navajo painter. He was a Navajo shepherd, who in 1932 went to the Santa Fe Indian School where he learnt to paint in Dorothy Dunn’s ‘Studio’ class and became one of the most significant pupils (see ). In 1933 one of his paintings was among those selected to illustrate a book of Navajo poetry, and in the late 1930s he executed wall paintings of goat-herding scenes in one of the classrooms. His work was exhibited widely, both while he was still a pupil and when he became a professional artist. His pastoral background instilled in him a keen sense of observation and the deep feeling for nature expressed in much of his work. For example, his paintings of horses set a standard in the US Southwest. Among his subjects were Navajo women attending to their babies, sheep-herding scenes, and depictions of Navajo riders. His mastery of action was his major contribution, and affected the direction of Native American Southwest and Plains painting. The subject-matter included bold, dramatic exultations of masculinity, wild horses, hunting scenes, and battles, all charged with excitement (e.g. ...

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

Imre Nagy

[ Dick ] [Wah-Pah-Nah-Yah: ‘Lightfoot Runner’]

(b Darlington, OK, Sept 8, 1912; d 1996).

Native American Cheyenne painter and sculptor . He studied at the Haskell Institute, Lawrence, KS, from 1931 until 1936, then at the Bacone Junior College, Muskogee, OK, from 1936 until 1938. He received a BA degree at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, in 1941. Between 1941 and 1942 he taught as an art instructor at the Phoenix Indian School, AZ, and, after a period in the US Navy, again from 1946 until 1948. In 1947 he was appointed director of the Art Department at Bacone Junior College, a position he held until 1970. His paintings depict the traditional Plains Indian life and ancient ceremonies in a strong linear style and bold colours. He also worked as a muralist, providing murals for the U.S. Post Office, Okemah, OK (1941), the Bacone College (1963) and the North Campus of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK. His Southern Cheyenne Sun Dance, the Great Medicine Lodge Ceremony...

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 ...