Dwayne Wilcox: Ledger Artist
By Richard Pearce, auhor of Women and Ledger Art: Four Contemporary Women Artists, published by the University of Arizona Press, 2013
Dwayne Wilcox “is entirely self taught--learning from friends and family. ‘I lived in Washington, DC for a few years and I managed to go through every museum archive I came across that contained ledger art. Ledger art had such a deep feel and I found it the most versatile of all Lakota arts’” (George E. Foster, Jr. Gallery of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, sponsored Harwood Museum).
“Dwayne “Chuck” Wilcox has been a full-time artist since 1987, but has always been a lifelong producer of art. While he has no formal art training, Chuck had his first commissioned art piece in 1974, which eventually lead to a full time career.
He “is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota and was born in Kadoka, SD 1957. His family is from Wanblee, SD, and he attended Crazy Horse High school. Following graduation, Chuck enlisted in the military for four years. His wife was a career military member and they have lived in Colorado, South Carolina, Maryland and Montana.
“Chuck’s chosen medium is ledger paper, the first paper to make it’s way to the Great Plains in the 19 century. He uses this medium to convey, in the most contemporary way, a living culture through humor, dance, or vices of the modern times. His goal is to share a continuing view of how natives see the European culture and to reverse the paradigm" (Dog Hat Studio www.doghatstudio.com).
Wilcox also teaches children at the Red Cloud Indian School's Heritage center: "On a recent winter afternoon, Red Cloud fourth grader, Nevaya, sat drawing out a story on lined ledger paper, a well known Oglala Lakota ledger artist Dwayne Wilcox sat nearby, guiding her. . . See more
"My friends and family influence my work by the way they communicate and tell a joke or a story. In the Lakota way, humor is medicine and helps us heal. That is why there are such figures as the Sacred Clown. My drawings are meant to reflect that kind of humor and the traditional lifeways. This is what I see as everyday life" (Artist's Statement in Moving Walls, 19, Open Society Foundation).
I Thought We Had Problems, 2012
In the early 19th century Plains Indian warriors painted pictographic stories of their heroic deeds on their hide robes to bring honor to themselves and their families. When they were introduced to colored pencils and paper, their
representations became far more detailed. But they remained flat, or two-dimensional, which became a hallmark of ledger style. Since paper was hard to find, they often drew on pages from a ledger book. As a result, the generic name became ledger drawing.
A Little off the Top, Missoula Art Museum
. Five Star Crow
Missoula Independent, May 31, 2012
Cheese with that Whine
Open Socieities Foundation: Moving Walls 19
Budweiser Killed More Indians than Custer, San Diego Museum of Art
According to the New York Times, March 5, 2012. "One of the worst offences of white people after Native people were forced on to reservations was selling them alcohol and it continued into the 21st century....
"Four rickety metal shacks that line the main road in this town of maybe 10 people sell an average of 13,000 cans of beer and malt liquor a day. The nearest sizable city is two hours north. But just 240 yards north, across the state line in South Dakota, is the sprawling Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where alcohol has been banned since the 1970s.
“The reservation is home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which has filed a suit against the stores in Whiteclay that sell beer. Nearly all the alcohol bought in Whiteclay winds up on Pine Ridge or is consumed by its residents, tribal officials say. Pine Ridge is home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe and is one of the poorest places in the country, according to 2010 census data.
“In February, the Oglala Sioux filed a federal lawsuit against the stores, and Anheuser-Busch and several other large American brewing companies, accusing them of encouraging the illegal purchase, possession, transport and consumption of alcohol on the reservation. Fetal alcohol syndrome, fatal drunken driving accidents and beer-fueled murders had cast a pall over Pine Ridge for decades.”
Wow! Real Blooded White People, Hood Museum
“The inspiration for this piece came from 14 years of travel with a cultural exchange program that took adolescents from the reservation to the east coast for dance performances. Wilcox remembers when one kid waved and said ‘Bye Indians!’ “I thought it was kind of strange to say good bye to someone and include their race. But they don’t know any better,’ Wilcox said. ‘People come up and take pictures of you like you’re some kind of circus trick. Until you’re in that awkward position, you won’t be able to know.’” (Big Sky Journal).
There They Go Riding Our Asses Again, Peabody Museum
Riding High, Peabody Museum
After Two Three Hundred Years You Will Not Notice It Anymore
In this 2009 ledger drawing a warrior in an eagle-feather headdress, sits on a yellow stool with a red polka dot cushion. He points steel ball colored with stars and stripes and chained to his leg. A cartoon figure of General Custer, with his long, yellow hair, replies bends over and offers him a toy American flag. His reply, After Two or Three Hundred Years You Will Not Notice, “is a biting critique of the brutal impact of colonization. Wilcox graphically illustrated the United States government’s power over Natives Americans through a metaphorical and literal restraint characterized by a stars and stripes ball and chain. The divisive imprisoning device represents the consequences of the conquest of America, the concept of Manifest Destiny, and burdensome policies such as the Indian Removal Act. Wilcox acknowledged in his drawings this speciousness of the notion of Native ‘sovereignty’ in view of the historic and contemporary restrictions placed on Indians across the land.”
But Wilcox often satirizes and spoofs Custer as well as other white people and even Indians. And he often uses his cartoon as a simple commentary.
1 Custer was called yellow hair by the Indians. It may seem ironic that Wilcox uses Custer in this cartoon, since, vastly outnumbered, he and all his men were killed on June 25, 1876 in the battle of the Little Big Horn. Nonetheless for many years he was considered a hero.
2 Russell, Karen Kramer. Shapeshifting : Transformations in Native American Art. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012.
Hang in There, Baby. Peabody Museum
Talking to Luke Skype Talker
A Little off the Top
From Here To Eternity, Hood Museum
Slowing global warming, by taking a picture because everyone knows it will last longer!
"The global warming picture is a comment on how those can help, only see dollar signs, wish the truth was an easy cheep fix. I guess we all stand by and watch and take pictures of used to be."
For other Native ledger art and artists see:
Is That a Sticky Bun?
Stela Always the Center of Attention
A Little More to the East