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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

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

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

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, ...

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

John-Paul Stonard

(b Washington, AR, July 10, 1940).

Native American Cherokee sculptor, performance artist, and video artist. In 1968 he moved to Geneva, where he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1972. After his return to the USA he lived on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and played an active part in the American Indian Movement; he also served from 1975 to 1979 as the executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council in New York. He left both organizations in 1980. Durham’s sculptures and installations can be seen against a background of activism, in which he records the plight of Native Americans in the face of Western colonial culture. His sculptures, bricolages of found objects, often take the form of vivid anthropomorphic constructions, appearing as ironic fetishes in an ethnographic display. Durham often includes words that provide witty if inconclusive suggestions of the type of protest that he is staging, as in the wall-mounted work ...

Article

W. Jackson Rushing III

(b Sacramento, CA, Jan 5, 1946; d Santa Fe, NM, Dec 28, 2006).

Native American painter, printmaker and sculptor of Maidu, Hawaiian and Portuguese ancestry. Raised in Northern California, Fonseca studied at Sacramento City College and at California State University at Sacramento with Wintu artist Frank LaPena (b 1937). A leading figure in the national network of contemporary native artists that formed in the early to mid-1970s, Fonseca received the Best of Show Award in the Indian Art Now exhibition at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Sante Fe, NM, in 1979. Many honors followed, including the Allan Houser Memorial Award and an Eiteljorg Museum Fellowship for Native American Fine Art, both in 2005. Inspired by mythology, pictography and modernism, he explored oral history, media imagery and popular culture through figuration and abstraction.

Fonseca’s earliest imagery transformed indigenous designs and material culture. His Maidu Creation Story (1977) was the first of several treatments (1991, 2006) of subject matter based on the teachings of his uncle, Henry Azbill. The quiet, folkish elegance and pristine primitivism of his drawings for the anthology ...

Article

Frederick J. Dockstader

(b San Juan, c. 1905–10; d 1989).

Native American Pueblo potter of San Ildefonso, NM. She attended the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe. She married Robert Gonzales (1920) and moved to his home in San Ildefonso, where they had two children: Marie and Tsé-Pe, the latter also a potter. Gonzales was not a potter in her youth, but learnt the art from her mother-in-law, Ramona Sánchez Gonzales, a noted potter of the time. Rose tried many techniques; when her husband brought home a prehistoric Pueblo sherd with incised designs on the surface, she did some experimenting, and in 1929 began to carve the surface of her vessels. This was the first medium-incised pottery from San Ildefonso and the forerunner of a ware now commonplace in the Río Grande pueblos. Her vessels are relatively thick-walled and while still green are carved intaglio with a knife. The surface is burnished, leaving a matt background in a monochrome black or red, depending on oxidization when fired, which provides a pleasing contrast. Some potters who followed her style in the 1980s and 1990s also painted the incut sections. The designs are normally on a wide band around the neck and include geometric, floral and symbolic motifs. Gonzales is a prolific artisan, and her work is well known throughout the USA. She has exhibited in many shows and has travelled throughout the world demonstrating her ceramic skills....

Article

Arthur Silberman

(b Chinle, AZ, July 26, 1932).

Native American Navajo painter, printmaker and sculptor. After attending Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he majored in literature and minored in art, he received a scholarship in 1958 from the Navajo Tribal Council to study art at Mexico City College. He also studied at San Francisco State University and at other California institutions. The style that he developed stemmed from his experiences in Mexico and reveals the influence of his teachers as well as that of the Mexican muralists. He maintained a studio and gallery for his own works and those of other Native American artists in Taos, NM. While Gorman has handled such subject-matter as interpretations of Navajo rugs and pottery designs, his most successful and best-received works have been his studies of Navajo women. He portrayed them as archetypes; as monumental, nurturing ‘earth mothers’. He grouped women in conventional poses or engaged in domestic pursuits, ranging from stolid affirmations to revelations of inner beauty and grace. He used various media, sometimes painting and drawing in acrylics, pastels and pencil in the same work. He worked out personal technical processes and used these with great effectiveness. His style is well-suited to lithographs, which he has produced in great number. He has also produced sculptures....

Article

Frederick J. Dockstader

[Tsa-sah-wee-eh: ‘Little Standing Spruce’]

(b Albuquerque, NM, May 28, 1943; d June 9, 1984).

Native American Pueblo painter of Santa Clara, NM. Her father was Herbert O. Hardin, an Anglo, and her mother was the Pueblo painter Pablita Velarde. She attended high school in Albuquerque, NM, and was awarded an Indian Art project scholarship in 1960, which influenced her decision to turn to art as a career. By the late 1960s she had developed a highly successful style. She worked in acrylics, casein, pen and ink, and just before her untimely death, of cancer, she had begun a series of etchings. After leaving Santa Clara Pueblo she lived most of her life in Española, NM. She had a brief marriage to Pat Terrazas, which ended in divorce, and later married Cradoc Bagshaw, a Santa Fe Anglo photographer. Greatly influenced by her mother, and even more so by Joe Hilario Herrera, a noted Cochití artist and son of Tonita Peña, Hardin became one of the most widely known Pueblo painters. Her early focus was the usual genre form, but in ...

Article

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.”...

Article

G. Lola Worthington

(b Wichita, KS, Nov 22, 1954).

Native American (Cheyenne–Arapaho) conceptual and performance artist. Creating ethnic commentary with introspective perceptions and communiqués of contemporary indigenous political frames of context, Heap of Birds demonstrated his analysis of colonized relationships and their aftermath. In his works unspoken rules and relationships between Native Americans and colonizers are deliberately provoked and questioned (see, for example, Day/Night, 1991). He candidly confronts stereotypes and the essential meaning of “Native” identity in legal and colonialist terms.

He earned his BFA at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS (1976), and afterwards studied at the Royal College of Art, London (1976–7). In 1979, the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA awarded him an MFA. Early works combined his enthusiasm for juxtaposed graphic images with text on sheet metal. Combining visual and linguistical representations, he offered fresh and provoking political commentary. His works were temporary and retained by a series of noted photographs taken during the performance event. He voiced questions between Native Americans and non-Native Americans about the precarious relationships of ethnic perception in modern day America....

Article

Arthur Silberman

[Ma-Pe-Wi]

(b Zia Pueblo, NM, Oct 22, 1902; d Santa Fe, NM, Jan 18, 1973).

Native American Pueblo painter. He was a student at the Santa Fe Indian School (see Native North American art, §IV, 2) in 1918 when Elizabeth DeHuff (1887–1983), wife of the school superintendent, invited him and several other students, including Kabotie, Fred and Otis Polelonema (1902–1981), to spend afternoons painting in her living room. After a showing at the Museum of New Mexico, the work was exhibited at the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1920. Extensive press coverage stimulated so much interest that, in effect, the early Santa Fe Native American art movement was thus launched. Thereafter, Herrera’s paintings were widely exhibited throughout the US and Europe. He illustrated several books, including educational material for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1939 he painted murals in the Department of Interior Building in Washington, DC, and in 1954 he was awarded the French government’s Palmes d’Académiques for his contribution to Native American art. Herrera constantly developed and added to his skills. He came to excel in realistic compositions displaying a command of perspective and modelling, fine detail and sensitive portraiture. His inventive abstract compositions, based on traditional Pueblo symbolism, were emulated by many other artists. Nevertheless, through most of his life he was estranged from his native ...

Article

Marvin Cohodas

(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 ...