28 June 2013
Inspiration from Plains Ledger Art
My first step in making this piece for the Re-Riding History project was to stain some white washi (Shikoku white) with tea to give it an aged appearance. I used English tea, of course. English breakfast tea, which might have been served when visitors from northern cities like New York, Boston or Philadelphia came to St. Augustine, Florida, to see Lt. Richard Pratt's new Indian 'students' at Fort Marion.
The curators of Re-Riding History have asked the artists to create our work at 9.5 x 11 inches, a size which references the dimensions of most Plains Indian ledger drawings. In the mid-1800s, Plains warrior artists acquired ledger books, pencils and watercolors through contact and conflict with European Americans, and they used these tools to record both their history and the tumult they were enduring.
The internment of the seventy-two captured Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Caddo, and Comanche chiefs and warriors at Fort Marion in Florida inadvertently supported ledger drawing as a popular genre of Native arts, as the drawings by the prisoners were often sold to tourists. Prisoners were encouraged to draw their memories and recent experiences, and in many cases they documented their own process of assimilation.
Click here to see some ledger drawings by native Americans at Fort Marion on the Smithsonian web site.