SPOKANE, Wash. - The event was an artist's reception featuring the work of Spokane artist George Flett, but it was much more than that. It was an opportunity to announce the upcoming release of a book about his work with a pre-publication book signing, and a chance to see and hear about regalia for horses that is featured prominently in Flett's paintings.
Flett, arguably the region's most noted Native artist, is a regular exhibitor at the Santa Fe Indian Market and other major shows throughout the West. The Tinman Gallery in Spokane exhibits his work and hosted the reception.
''I was excited to be asked to have a show at the Tinman Gallery,'' Flett commented. ''I called Cliff and Lori SiJohn and asked if they would bring some horse regalia pieces to show. At this time I am starting to work on various pieces to show the uses of regalia by our Plateau Indian people.
''Suddenly I have become excited about doing more. I get up very early in the morning and start drawing. It seems like you never have enough art. When I'm able to do a show like this at the Tinman Gallery, I get very excited because I can bring in local Indian people to show what my art is all about.''
Numerous paintings by Flett adorned the walls of the gallery, and guests gathered to view and discuss them. His style evolves as new ideas and new approaches strike him. Ledger drawings are not new with him - he's been doing them for more than 10 years - but it's one of his current passions, and as such were the show's dominant type of work. It's also the style that will be featured in the forthcoming book, ''The Ledger Art of George Flett.''
''Most of the ledgers I've utilized are from the Spokane and northern Idaho area, so it's become very important for me. I never cease to keep learning as I go on. It just lights a fire under me. It seems like I can't get enough of it,'' Flett said.
Susan Bradley, owner of Tinman Gallery, announced, ''The book will be published in the spring of this year. It's going to be a fine art book with 30 of his ledger pieces printed on high-quality paper.'' Those guests in attendance had an opportunity to purchase a book at this pre-publication event and Flett signed title pages at the reception.
She elicited applause when she announced that Flett has been asked to go to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., this summer to hold workshops in connection with a show on the Plains Indian. The book will be on sale at the National Museum of the American Indian at that time. ''We're pleased that he's finally getting the recognition he deserves,'' she concluded.
Flett introduced Cliff and Lori SiJohn, who had brought regalia to show and discuss. Lori, Cayuse/Umatilla, was wearing a beaded buckskin dress that was made by her family nearly 75 years ago. Cliff, who is Coeur d'Alene, explained that Lori's ancestry is from a line of chiefs.
''We do a horse ceremony at Julyamsh Pow Wow with a parade of horses in their finest regalia with both warriors and women,'' Cliff SiJohn said. ''We hope to enter Julyamsh riders in the Lilac Parade in Spokane this year to further show the Indian regalia and horsemanship of Indian people.''
The SiJohns brought an array of accoutrements that are used on their horses, beginning with an Indian saddle. Each item was described and discussed for the benefit of the non-Natives in the audience. ''This is a utilitarian saddle for carrying things with big horns to hang baskets and baby boards and bags, things to tie on your outfit as you move from camp to camp,'' Cliff SiJohn explained. They had a martingale and a drape for behind the saddle, a variety of head ornaments and a mask, ''used when approaching an enemy as a fearful thing.'' They showed rawhide cylinders, cornhusk and beaded bags, and bags decorated with quills - the same type of items shown in Flett's paintings.
Cliff SiJohn commented, ''When you look at George's ledger work, pay special attention. It was one of the earliest forms of a contemporary medium. Many times, ledger work was the result of Indian people being incarcerated at different forts and they began to try to tell their story by drawing story pictures on ledger paper.
''I like to look at the story behind the paint, the acrylic or the pencil - at what their spirit is really seeing and what they're trying to tell me. If you explore it in that respect it may help you in your enjoyment of Indian art. I know that all of us who enjoy art in whatever form, music or visual or whatever it might be - it seems to make the world alive and it makes the world come directly to you no matter how long ago.''