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June 21 2021

Fast Ponies and War Bonnets Receives Critical Acclaim

Daily Art Magazine

An article in the Daily Art Magazine reviews Donald Ellis Gallery’s inaugural online exhibition of historical Lakota Ledger Art. Accompanied by an extensive essay written by artist and filmmaker Dana Claxton, ’Fast Ponies and War Bonnets will leave you breathless,’ Candy Bedworth exalts. 

The exhibition is comprised of eighteen Ledger Drawings created by Lakota warrior artists in the late nineteenth century. Claxton’s flowing narrative speaks to the magnificent rendition of Native American warriors and Shukawakan, the Holy Dog as the Lakota refer to horses, and to how autobiographic representations of battle and ceremonial life can animate Indigenous art histories today. Part of an oral culture, these images provide tangible records of past events and the stories, values and believes associated with them. ‘Lean in to these small, portable images and look closely,’ Bedworth admonishes her readers. ‘Poignant and evocative, these ledgers are rich in detail and steeped in history.’

Writing on the historical context of Ledger Art more broadly, the author commends that against ‘the brutal colonization of the Americas, […] re-claiming and celebrating the ledgers is a step in the direction of re-establishing spiritual identity and personal perspectives. These ledgers are historical records, pictures, stories, maps, and memories, blending art and history into one package.’

Drawings on paper developed from long-established pictographic traditions including painting on rock and hide. With the strategic decimation of the buffalo herds, Native American artists looked to paper as a new medium of narrative expression. ‘Paper may have been a symbol of an invasive culture,’ Bedworth writes, but Indigenous artists quickly took advantage and ‘used these new tools to expand and experiment with their art, transitioning to a completely new form.’

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Fast Ponies and War Bonnets Receives Critical Acclaim