This post was written by student Shaylene Thompson for History of Twentieth Century Art.
Willard Stone was born in 1916 in Oktaha, Oklahoma, and died in 1985 of a heart attack. Stone was a Native American/Indian artist whose primary subjects were Western, such as cowboys, Indians, and horses. At the age of thirteen, Stone’s interest in drawing was upset when he lost parts of his right thumb and two fingers in an accidental dynamite cap explosion. He then found a new outlet to express himself, in the form of modeling clay.
Something to Believe In is an 11 x 14-inch lithographic print. It was completed in 1969, and donated to Oklahoma State University in May 1983. A description of the print that accompanied the artwork says, “Three Basic Things—We have to believe in our kids and their future, represented by the little Cherokee boy, and get them to understanding and believing in Nature, or the Good Earth, upon which their life depends, represented by the terrapin, and third, the Great Spirit or God, represented by the three feathers in the boy’s hair. 30 castings in bronze will be made of this subject. If interested, contact the sculptor.”
This description gives us insight into what the print (and the related sculpture) represents. With three different themes symbolized in the print, Stone explains and shows how those themes are relevant to everyone’s life, and what he believes should be passed on from generation to generation. The boy and the turtle are the only things in the print, focusing us on their specific concepts and their relation to one another.
Something to Believe In is a representational print, and it doesn’t fit into the canonical modernist movements we typically study in art history classes. The print is the work of a man who wishes to express his heritage through the media of print and sculpture. This is a modern work because the artist expresses himself through his work, not necessarily concerning himself with what his audience wants to see. It is a very personal work, in which Stone illustrated his beliefs about how we should behave and what we should teach our children.