“Battle Ready”

Mescalero Raul Davis


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Before contact with Europeans, special events were recorded in picture form on the sides of hide tepees, by various Plains tribes.

After defeat, and incarceration in U.S. Cavalry forts, Native artists continued to record deeds, special occasions, and memories of past times – but on whatever paper they could find.

Often, they used unused pages from old business ledgers, which then named this sort of folk art. Originally, pencil and colored pencils were most common.

Nowadays, there is a revival of this former art, honoring the history, style and materials. Most often today, though, the artists use paint, as here.

Contemporary ledger artists scrounge around, using old bank stationery, business ads, sheet music, maps; whatever they can find in old and antique commercial papers.

This artist, Raul Davis, has used an actual bank ledger from 1902, to portray his colorful and fierce Apache warrior.

Pheasant feathers on his headdress, vibrantly painted shield in one hand and fearsome knife in the other, this warrior is stepping forward, ready to do battle.

Notice the perspective achieved in the feet – one lifted, and slightly behind, and the figure seen directly from the front.

Horses gallop along the right-hand border, while a green cross and purple mountains decorate the left side, top and bottom.

The sense of powerful movement, suppressed rage and energy is vividly depicted.

You feel the anger that an imprisoned warrior might feel, and the retroactive anger of his descendant, the artist.

With bright and muted colors, and a wonderful sense of energy, the artist has created a piece of ledger art that is strong, esthetically, historically, and emotionally.

This evocative piece is ready to matte, frame, and enjoy. We can see this, especially, in the office of a latter-day warrior: military person, lawyer, teacher, social worker, for example.

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