Mixed Media Ledger Art

Jim Yellowhawk



An enrolled member of the Itazipco Band of the Cheyenne River Sioux, he is also Onondaga/Iroquois on his mother’s side.

Jim says, “I have been immersed in the arts of my ancestors since I was a young boy. My grandmother, Annie Yellowhawk was a traditional beadworker and role model for traditional ways, and my father Jerry Yellowhawk was and is a passionate artist in a variety of mediums.”

Jim has been part of many museum exhibits of ledger art, and art of the Plains, including at the Smithsonian.

He likes to update the traditional form of ledger art, which was a continuation of the tradition of commemorating significant events – but on odd bits of business forms, instead of tepees or shields – when the tribes were confined by Federal troops.

This compelling mixed-media version incorporates cut-out leather, painted canvas, and a small painting on antique ledger paper, glued to wood and applied atop the painted canvas.

Glossy black paint completely (almost) covers the canvas and all sides.

A brown leather strap is cut-out in traditional Plains designs, outlined in black, and boldly contrasting with the unpainted white of the canvas below it.

Centered on the square black canvas, above the leather cut-out, is a modern ledger painting.

It depicts a traditional Plains sun design, with its rays resembling eagle feathers, and a handsomely detailed drawing/painting of a Native wearing a fringed buckskin robe, with red streamers and feathers dangling from a shield on his back

Fragments of the original numbers and jottings on the antique business form are still legible at the top left.

The title is written below: 1948 INDIAN CHIEF; so far, so traditional.

But, the “Indian Chief” is the spiffy, lovingly painted, red and black motorcycle the Native rider is driving!

This dramatic, decorative, meticulously hand made work is a fabulous example of contemporary ledger art, where the artist has brought the past into the current time, with a healthy dose of humor.

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