Media Relations

National Cowboy Museum Exhibit Features Kiowa Five Artists

Dec 20, 2005

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The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum® in Oklahoma City offers a rich, colorful art exhibition titled Music and Dance in American Indian Painting through May 7, 2006. Developed from the Museum's prestigious collection, the exhibit of more than 30 works is on display in the Arthur and Shifra Silberman Gallery of Native American Art. Included are Plains and Southwestern renderings of pow wow, social and ceremonial dances.

At the beginning of the 20th century, many Pueblo Indian artists began creating works of art on paper. The San Ildefonso School of watercolor artists appeared, and its painters produced pictorial graphics of Indian ceremonies and recorded the many dances that went on in the community.

The Oklahoma artists who became known as the Kiowa Five began to paint in about 1920. After several years of fine arts classes at the Kiowa Agency, these individuals enrolled in special art classes at the University of Oklahoma. The head of the University's art department, Oscar Jacobson, encouraged the Kiowa Five to paint subjects that recalled their personal experiences and portrayed scenes from Kiowa oral tradition. This resulted in a preponderance of paintings with ceremonial or dance subjects.

While he served as their mentor, Jacobson directed the sales and marketing of the Kiowa Five work. The artists were all accomplished singers and dancers, and Jacobson's sales package often included performances of Indian song and dance by the five young men.

Period observers reported that the Kiowa paintings had a marked resemblance to the earlier Pueblo watercolor works. They also impacted subsequent Indian painting activity in the Southwest.

As late as 1926, Bureau of Indian Affairs officials had argued that Indian students should not be encouraged or permitted to draw pictures of Indian dances and customs. By the early 1930s, however, educational literature was encouraging the protection and preservation of traditional lifestyles and suggesting that cultural resources could be used to the benefit of Indian students.
Musicians, dancers and ceremonial activities have been common American Indian art subjects more than a century. Artists whose works make reference to traditional life continue to feature performing artists in their compositions.

Music and Dance in American Indian Painting is presented by A.J. "Jack" and Phoebe Cooke. Supporting Sponsor is Phillips McFall Mc Caffrey McVay and Murrah.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is located in the heart of central Oklahoma's Frontier Country and is one of seven attractions in Oklahoma City's Adventure District at the junction of I-44 and I-35.

Membership to America's Premier Western Heritage Museum™ includes year-round admission for six people. The Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. For more information, call (405) 478-2250.