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 magisterial ledger art work is made on an antique piece of sheet music, “Song of the Ghost Dance”, composed by Short Bull, a Lakota of Rosebud, South Dakota.
The artist has shown a buffalo hunt, with a large hunter/warrior riding headlong amidst the galloping buffalo.
A couple of teepees stand upright at the bottom, grounding the propulsive energy, as does an imposing portrait of the song’s composer, Short Bull, drawn on the right side of the work.
While the hunter and horse, the buffalo, and the teepees are solid and in color, the drawing of Short Bull is all in misty greys, with the sheet music showing through.
Below this large, ghostly portrait, the artist has floated a photograph of Short Bull, from which he evidently made his drawing.
Short Bull’s name, his tribal affiliation, and some words of Lakota are written just beside the portrait drawing.
If you remember the film”Dances with Wolves”, you will recognize the word “Tatanka’, or buffalo.
Professionally matted, and framed by the artist himself, in hand-made, dovetailed walnut, the work is imposing, dignified, fascinating, and compelling.
Created with great artistry and deeply felt spirituality, this is a powerful work of art that is beautifully composed by a recognized artist, and worthy of a museum – and your wall.