Ledger Art Prints 2015-2017
***Print Only for Sale***
Artist Signed Print
Original is mixed media (pen & ink, acrylic, colored pencil)
on antique ledger paper
Art! It brings an element of vibrancy into your home or office. Your choice of art often reflects your own personality, your tastes, your aspirations…buy art you love and surround yourself with it.
Fancy That depicts and pays honor to the fancy shawl and the dance.
HISTORY OF THE FANCY SHAWL
Given its legacy of color, vivacity and even rebellion, the name of the dance is ironically plain: fancy shawl. Women’s fancy shawl—often mistakenly thought to be a dance that traces back far in history but is actually a fairly recent innovation—is one of the most anticipated competitions at pow wows. In this unique performance, young women from many nations skim, twirl and hop across the arena with a gait that manages to be staccato, lithe and fluid all at once.
For generations, women’s dances tended to be restrained, regal and sedate. But when men in the 1920s created what we now know as men’s fancy dance in order to skirt U.S. government bans on tribal dances (and simultaneously create a spectacle for tourists willing to pay for the pleasure of viewing these performances), women wanted in on the action. In fact, the regalia of the first female fancy dancers were similar to men’s regalia, such as wearing bustles.
This early form of the dance didn’t take off until the 1950s, when women in northern tribes incorporated traditionally feminine aspects. And thus what we now know as fancy shawl dance was born.
Fancy shawl dancers are often said to resemble butterflies. The shawl that gives the dance its name—a fringed, colorful, often beaded or appliquéd adaptation of the traditional women’s blanket—extends over the length of the dancer’s “wingspan.” Being light on one’s feet is a must, so the simile applies. Footwork tends to be decided by the individual; there is no particular set of steps to which dancers must adhere, and balance and symmetry are more esteemed than fancy moves. At least one foot should hit the ground with each drumbeat, except during jumps or spins; the dancer’s head also keeps time with the beat, though not nearly as emphatically as one might see in men’s fancy dance. As with all pow wow dancing, dancing to the tone, style and rhythm of the song is essential, and not ending with the final drumbeat will get a dancer disqualified. Poise, endurance, showmanship, agility and grace are the prized attributes.
In fact, the fancy shawl dance was called the “graceful shawl dance” when it emerged in the 1950s. While fancy shawl dancers are still indisputably graceful, there is occasional dispute about how athletic the dance should be. In the 1950s and 1960s, dancers stayed closer to the ground and took smaller steps than today’s shawl dancers. The mid-century shawl dance was more exuberant than women’s traditional dance, but it was still restrained and known as “ladylike” in demeanor. In the 1970s and beyond—perhaps influenced by the growing awareness of women’s equality in the zeitgeist—the dance began to resemble what we see at pow wows today. A competitor might spin heartily and repeatedly; she may whir her way through her fellow dancers, resembling more an agile snake than a butterfly; she may kick, even leap, with her shawl extended above her head.
This makes for exciting viewing, but mature hands routinely tell beginners to not kick too high, to not rely on spins to display one’s technique, and to not use flamboyance as a crutch to cover a lack of style. Other practical advice to beginners often includes tips on cross-training: endurance running, sprinting and strength training are common among experienced dancers who know how much stamina the dance requires. Most of all, though, experienced dancers always share this simple bit of wisdom with novices: Have fun.
Ledger Art History
This genre, often called Ledger Art, represents a transitional form of Plains Indian artistry corresponding to the forced reduction of Plains tribes to government reservations, roughly between 1860 and 1900. Due to the destruction of the buffalo herds and other game animals of the Great Plains by Anglo-Americans during and after the Civil War, painting on buffalo hide gave way to works on paper, muslin, canvas, and occasionally commercially prepared cow or buffalo hides.
Changes in the content of pictographic art, the rapid adjustment of Plains artists to the relatively small size of a sheet of ledger paper, and the wealth of detail possible with new coloring materials, marks Plains ledger drawings as a new form of Native American art. As such, ledger painting portrays a transitional expression of art and material culture that links traditional (pre-reservation) Plains painting to the Plains and Pueblo Indian painting styles that emerged during the 1920s in Indian schools in Oklahoma and New Mexico.
Beginning in the early 1860s, Plains Indian men adapted their representational style of painting to paper in the form of accountants ledger books. Traditional paints and bone and stick brushes used to paint on hide gave way to new implements such as colored pencils, crayon, and occasionally water color paints. Plains artists acquired paper and new drawing materials in trade, or as booty after a military engagement, or from a raid. Initially, the content of ledger drawings continued the tradition of depicting of military exploits and important acts of personal heroism already established in representational painting on buffalo hides and animal skins. As the US government implemented the forced relocation of the Plains peoples to reservations, for all practical purposes completed by the end of the 1870s, Plains artists added scenes of ceremony and daily life from before the reservation to the repertoire of their artwork, reflecting the social and cultural changes brought by life on the reservation within the larger context of forced assimilation.
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