Untitled (Bronze)

Dyani White Hawk
Untitled (Bronze)

Dyani White Hawk, (b. 1976 Madison, Wisconsin), Untitled (Bronze), 2018, Acrylic, oil, bugle and seed beads, synthetic sinew, thread on canvas, Museum purchase, The Dorothy Johnston Towne (Class of 1923) Fund 2020.23

Untitled (Bronze), a powerful canvas uniting dynamic contemporary abstraction with Lakota tradition, joins four prints by Dyani White Hawk (Sičan  gu Lakota) in the Davis Museum’s collections. A renowned artist, White Hawk earned her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2011) and BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts (2008), and has recently received many prestigious awards including the 2019 United States Artists Fellowship in Visual Art, the 2018 Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Artists, the 2017 and 2015 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowships. White Hawk’s paintings feature Lakota designs inspired by those frequently found on blankets and moccasins, made using the traditional arts of quillwork and beadwork. “As a woman of Lakota and European ancestry,” she writes, “my life experiences have been a continual negotiation of both Western and Indigenous educations, value systems, and worldviews. Through the amalgamation of symbols and motifs derivative of both Lakota and Western abstraction, my artwork examines, dissects, and patches back together pieces of each in a means to provide an honest representation of self and culture.”[1]

Untitled (Bronze) exemplifies how White Hawk employs these dual traditions of abstraction in her artistic practice. The painted cross evokes Minimalist paintings and the grid, while simultaneously paying homage to traditional Lakota geometric patterns. White Hawk surrounds this central motif with an intricate embroidery of glass seed beads and bugle beads. The beads create a muted pattern of stripes in varying tones and widths that recalls Lakota quill boxes and jewelry. While quillwork declined in popularity as the use of glass beads became prevalent via trade with Europeans in the mid 19th century, White Hawk arranges the beads in linear constructions—reflecting the long line of the quill—that draw on the legacies of both arts. Even the texture of the bronze cross alludes to this linearity, as the paint is horizontally grooved. Untitled (Bronze) is characteristic of White Hawk’s deeply personal approach to cultural synthesis in her art.

[1] Dyani White Hawk, May 2020 (https://tamarind.unm.edu/dyani-white-hawk/)