Thursday, October 4, 2007

What I Had Hoped Would be a Brief Tour of Indian Ledger Art

History blogging is delicate proposition. I typically look for a topic which is sufficient to fill 3-5 paragraphs with perhaps that many links. But what to do when a topic grows and grows as one composes the post? Such is the case with today's post on Native American Ledger Art.

Ledger Art is a genre that comes out of the reservation and boarding school experience. American Indians took their traditions of stylized figure drawing as seen on petroglyphs and buffalo robe paintings and adapted them to the new mediums of ink, colored pencil and paper. Not a few of these early drawings were made on discarded ledger books, hence the name. The online Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture has a good entry on the form. Ledger Art is usually associated with Plains Indians, but as we will see there are some compelling northwest examples as well.

Ledger Art is well represented online--starting with the site Plains Indian Ledger Art. "This site is dedicated to presenting and and preserving Plains Indian "Ledger" art, drawings on paper, from the late 19th century for research and enjoyment."

Fourteen ledgers are currently featured, all from plains peoples. So where is the love for northwest ledger art? Well the University Oregon offers this Cayuse-Nez Percé Sketchbook with some compelling images:

Not available online is this remarkable example of Nez Perce ledger art, recovered and interpreted by Scott Thompson, an art teacher at Chase Middle School in Spokane! Nice work Scott.

And the modern Spokane native artist George Flett plays with the medium in some of his work:

In addition, the Massachusetts Historical Society offers glimpses at this Ledger Art book drawn by Making Medicine (Cheyenne). Making Medicine (1844-1931) had a long and astonishing life with experiences that ranged from fighting U.S. Cavalry to a student at and then a recruiter for Richard Henry Pratt's Carlisle School to serving as an Episcopal deacon in Oklahoma. And this particular ledger book was once owned by Francis Parkman!

There is so much more out there, which you can Google as well as I.

No comments: