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Ledger art by Sheridan MacKnight (Chippewa/Lakota)

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There is a long tradition of artwork among the native peoples of the Plains, who originally painted on animal hides – particularly buffalo hides. When buffalo became scarce after eradication programs encouraged by the US federal government, Plains artists began painting and drawing on paper, canvas, and muslin. In the mid 19th century, an increasing supply of ledger books and other paper came from Europeans, along with pencils, fountain pens, crayons, and watercolor paints. The ledger books used by storekeepers to record their sales were one of the earliest sources of paper for warrior-artists, and their art – done on any sort of paper – has come to be called “ledger art.” The subject matter soon expanded to include all of Plains daily and ritual life.

Original ledger art flourished primarily from the 1860s to the 1920s and was the province solely of men. The revival of ledger art began in the 1960s and 1970s, now including some very talented women. Modern Plains artists create contemporary ledger paintings, often using 19th-century documents on which to paint, often creating ironic juxtapositions between the printed text and the paintings.

Sheridan MacKnight (Chippewa/Lakota) documents life stories through her delicate portrayal of Native women and children rendered in gouache or watercolor on antique ledger pages, 1920's sheet music of Native love songs, or other paper ephemera. Her paintings are done in the flat “Studio Style,” inspired by Pueblo mural and pottery painting and Plains hide painting and rock art, and taught at the Santa Fe Indian School in the 1930s. She is one of several women whose artistic contributions have expanded ledger art’s typical range of subject matter to include Native women’s roles.
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That's lovely.


Yes, she is certainly special, the woman of the moment!


Love the work - the details and the colors in their dresses - and the subject matter. The woman in the middle looks like she might be something special... possibly a medicine woman. The girls on each side look very reverent. Thanks, Judy.

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