GREAT FALLS, Mont. - American Indian artists, most from the western states
and tribes found along the route of Lewis and Clark expedition, recently
held an exhibition and sale in Great Falls to coincide with both the Lewis
and Clark bicentennial celebration and the Indian Encampment and Tribal
Games activities. An invitational, juried show entitled "Sweet Willow
Indian Market," brought together what is likely the best quality exhibition
of Indian art Montana has ever seen.
Elizabeth Dear was market director and contracted for the job because of
her long experience with Indian art. She served with the Southwestern
Association of American Indian Arts for 15 years and was chairman of the
Santa Fe Indian Market for two years in the mid-1980s. This background, and
the help of several prominent artists and dealers, provided the know-how to
assemble such a show.
Dear commented: "The show was patterned after the Santa Fe Market but on a
much smaller scale. It was put together primarily as a component of
'Explore The Big Sky' [part of the Lewis and Clark [bicentennial], as they
wanted to include an Indian art show."
She said a committee juried the artists into the show to assure excellence
and she was very pleased with the quality. "We have a really good
collection of artists representing both a wide range of styles and tribal
differences. We also wanted to show both traditional art as well as
contemporary. It was like Christmas to see art coming out of boxes for
judging and for sale," she added.
During the show, music played in the background, a tipi was set up and
trees had been placed within the building because "we wanted visitors to
get a feeling through the music, trees and art as to why the artists make
and do what they do."
Montana artists were particularly well represented among the roughly 35
exhibitors in the show. Mary Lou and Heywood Big Day, Crow, exhibited their
traditional dolls. They travel throughout the country talking about Crow
traditions and culture and selling their dolls. Terrance Guardipee,
Blackfeet, displayed his contemporary paintings. Jesse Henderson,
Chippewa-Cree, was another Montana painter who primarily paints stories
based on cultural facts and historical events. David Dragonfly, Blackfeet,
another Montanan, creates paintings based on traditional Blackfeet imagery
that sometimes border on contemporary.
Randall Blaze, Oglala Lakota, creates exquisite pottery pieces that are
cast in bronze. Nelda Schrupp, Nakota, displayed one-of-a-kind and
high-end, spectacular silver jewelry. Ivan Doney, Turtle Mountain Chippewa,
won Best of Show for his sculptures created of various metals.
Daniel Weahkee, Zuni/Navajo, -was present with his sculpture and fetishes;
as was his mother, Sharon Weahkee, Navajo, with her silverwork, many of
which incorporate elk ivories or walrus ivory. Alex Sanchez, Navajo,
exhibited his traditional Navajo silver and turquoise creations; as did
Paul Szabo, Rosebud Sioux, with jewelry representing Lakota culture and
utilizing natural and supernatural images.
George Flett, Spokane, is one of several artists in attendance who
regularly exhibit at the Indian Market in Santa Fe. Flett combines
contemporary ways of illustrating traditional subjects and bright colors to
create compelling canvases. Lucille Pakootas, Colville, exhibited her
homemade drums; and Troy DeRoche, Blackfeet, exhibited flutes that are
individually created without the use of a lathe or similar machinery. And
there were many others.
Elizabeth Dear summarized her thoughts and those of the committee about the
show by saying, "We want people to buy directly from the various artists.
All these artists are so good at relating to the public and explaining the
background in their work. We also want people to appreciate both Indian
culture and art."