Students in “History of Twentieth Century Art” this fall had the option to research objects in the OSUMA collection. For the next few weeks on the blog, I will be featuring their research. This week’s author is Hilary Wallace, who researched and wrote about Brummett Echo Hawk’s oil painting, The Creek Council Tree, Tulsa (ca. 1967). The following text is excerpted from her research paper.
Painted in 1967, Brummett Echo Hawk’s The Creek Council Tree is a painting of a historical tree that grows in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The painting itself is small in scale and sits in a simple wooden frame, looking humble and understated. But when one stops for a closer look, the viewer can see a symphony of colors and details. The solitary image of the tree conveys the importance of that one tree, that one symbol of the century old site of the Creek’s celebratory grounds.
The Creek Council Tree marks the traditional “busk ground”, or ceremonial ground, of the Lochapoka clan of Creek Indians. In 1834, the clan made their involuntary migration from Alabama under the control of the U.S. Government. It was a very slow and painful migration that left over one third of the people dead. In 1836 they arrived and their “busk” site was chosen at the very site of the Creek Council Tree.
The late Brummett Echo Hawk was a member of the Pawnee tribe in Pawnee, Oklahoma. He was a World War II veteran who served all over the world, including North Africa. He received many awards for his service, including three Purple Hearts. After he returned from the war he studied at the Detroit School of Art and Crafts and at the Art Institute of Chicago. Echo Hawk was a staff artist for the Chicago Daily Times and Chicago Sun-Times. He was also an actor, performing in plays, television programs, and movies.
He is most well known for his paintings of American Indians, such as his work Trail of Tears (1957), currently in the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK. He painted in a variety of styles, ranging from illustrative and cartoonlike to an impressionistic style in which he used a palette knife, as in The Creek Council Tree. At first glance, the thickly painted tree looks covered in snow. Echo Hawk used white hues to emphasize the look of the snow in the bright sun and blue and purple hues within the shadows. Also, he put some oranges and yellows within the snow, giving the Oklahoma audience a clear connection to the red dirt that would be present underneath. Echo Hawk juxtaposed different colored paints with thick, messy strokes created by a palette knife to create dimension. The tree itself is made up of oranges, greens, browns, and even some rusty red. Its branches go off of the canvas, giving the illusion that we are only seeing part of this great tree.
Echo Hawk painted a natural scene with bright colors and painterly brush strokes during a time of social change. 1967 was during the time of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the Pop Art movement, and the whole world changing rapidly within a small amount of time. Echo Hawk is one of the few well known Native American artists within our American history of art. Native American artists were not prevalent amongst well-known artists around the world until the last century. Echo Hawk influenced the younger generation of Native American artists including Yatika Fields, also featured in the Postal Plaza Gallery, and his own grandson, artist Bunky Echo Hawk.