Museums and collectors are increasingly interested in the revival of ledger art, a style that first emerged in the 19th century.
When Natives, especially of Plains tribes, were incarcerated in army forts and reservations, they adapted their tradition of drawing special events on their teepees, to using discarded paper office documents, instead.
An article about a museum exhibit of this style says, “Ledger art might feel like a reminder of colonialism and the loss of Native land and independence, but it was also an essential expression of a Native perspective at a time when their voices were being silenced.”
Nowadays, contemporary artists are reviving this art form, Jim Yellowhawk prominently among them.
Jim has been part of many museum exhibits of ledger art and art of the Plains, including the Smithsonian. He says,” I have been immersed in the Arts of my ancestors since I was a young boy…..
Traditional spirituality is woven into my daily life, work, practices, and way of being. It keeps me in balance and guides my creative processes.”
This piece shows a bit of the artist’s lighter side.
In the center of the drawing are three running buffalo, seemingly being hunted or chased by a warrior on horseback. This alone is comical, alluding to the idea of “fast food” in 1845 as the title of the piece says. However, Jim has added even more humor to the chase, drawing a pole with the well known McDonald’s “golden arches” opposite the hunter and buffalo, as if that is what they are running to, rather than running from the man on horseback.
In the bottom, left-hand corner is a laughing, smiley face emoji, another symbol of the times. With the emoji, the artist has deftly blended past and present and turned a typical hunting scene into a commentary of modern life, where even the buffaloes want McDonald’s, and where emojis are used as a representation of feelings.
The drawing is done on a piece of ledger paper dating back to 1845, which sits suspended between two pieces of glass in a custom frame handmade by the artist. He did this purposefully, so the ledger paper and old script could be seen on the back, ensuring that this little piece of history will be preserved.
Beautifully drawn, in a style that blends the old with the new, this piece will make you laugh, and also serves as a wonderful example of this revived 19th-century art!