This week’s post is by Kristen Enyart, a student in Native American Art and Material Culture in Spring 2013. Students in the class wrote about work by Native American artists from the OSU Museum of Art permanent collection.
Susan Stewart-Medicine Horse is a Native artist who identifies with Crow and Blackfeet American Indian tribes. She was born on May 22, 1953 in Livermore, California and she currently resides in Bozeman, Montana. In California, she was exposed to western arts. She was raised in a family that had very strong ties to their Native American heritage. Susan has worked as a teacher, manager of a clothing store, and painter. Her works of art include oil, acrylic, pastel, and prints. She has also served as the president of Montana Indian Contemporary Arts, an educational and service organization that promotes leadership for contemporary Indian artists in Montana and the Northwest region of the United States since 1989. The organization creates a networking opportunity for Native artists who have an edge on American Indian art expression.
Her own art comes from impressions of land and earth, along with the relationships she has with them. She listens to stories and oral histories to create themes. One of the main things she likes to focus on in her pieces is horses; she believes that they have had a big impact on the Plains Indians and their efforts in moving forward. Her goal is for her audience to appreciate the Native American experience. She wants people to examine and draw from Native American art.
This 1993 painting, from the Red Dog Series, is oil on a 60” x 50” canvas. It is very vibrantly painted with many bright colors. This painting is almost like a collage in that it consists of stars, mountains, skylines, tee-pees, and many stylistic references. The style is very expressive, embracing the paintbrush strokes throughout the entire piece. The main aspect of this painting is a horse, which represents Stewart’s idea of the Plains Indian tribes and their evolution to a better form of transportation. Within the painting there are stars depicted in a red, white, and blue color scheme; to me, this represents the United States of America.
When you put the imagery together as a whole I see a story that starts possibly in the mountains, as seen in the top of this piece, with the tee pees representing their original homestead. The horse, being the biggest image on the piece, representing “moving forward” into a new place, the United States. Altogether, this piece represents the impact the horse had on the journey of Natives becoming a part of the United States of America.