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Callling on Wakan Tanka

Oscar Howe, Mazuha Hokshina, Trader Boy Native American

Not on view

In this dramatic painting, three figures call upon the Dakota Creator Spirit, or Wakan Tanka. The people, clouds, dancing flames, and birds fill the work with movement. A man raises a sacred pipe to the Creator, and a starburst of spiritual energy and inspiration appears. Through the depiction of angular and fractured forms, the work also shows the beginnings of Oscar Howe’s interest in abstract painting.

In 1958, Howe’s evolving style sparked controversy at the Indian Annual at Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum of Art. His entry in the competition was rejected by non-Indian judges as being “a fine painting—but not Indian.” The work did not conform to the widely accepted “Studio style” that had become the standard in Native painting in the early 1900s. In a letter to the museum, Howe rejected the stereotype regarding earlier Native painting and proclaimed the autonomy of individual Native artists.

Callling on Wakan Tanka, Oscar Howe, Mazuha Hokshina, Trader Boy (Native American, Yanktonai, 1915–1983), Casein on paper, Yanktonai

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