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Above the Fruited Plain: Native ledger art by Dwayne Wilcox

May 5 - June 25, 2016 


The Hockaday Museum of Art is displaying Dwayne Wilcox's Above the Fruited Plain, an exhibition of Native ledger drawings that are compelling, multi-layered, and beautifully executed. Each humorous work begins with a story that draws the viewer in, usually by way of a cultural reference such as a powwow, a biographical reference, or a historical reference.  Although Wilcox's ledger art is immediately laugh-out-loud amusing in the way it pokes fun at white and native cultures, the viewer will find many layers of meaning beneath the surface of the cleverly presented stories.  Wilcox has taken the traditional American Indian art form of ledger drawing and firmly placed it in the contemporary world. The exhibition will be on display May 5 through June 25, 2016. (right: "Dwayne Wilcox, Wow! Real Full Blooded White People!" 2012, Ledger paper, colored pencil, 16 x 22.5 inches. Collection of Missoula Art Museum)

Wilcox brilliantly uses humor and irony in his work, and within the strong design principles he adds the element of a resolved narrative. Wilcox's wit pokes fun at often uncomfortable situations while showing us different world views that are inherently cultural. Wilcox states, "The culture I grew up in has a wonderful place for humor, it is also medicine, and I would hope to show this to the outside world." 

Wilcox has exhibited widely, and his work is included in collections at the Missoula Art Museum, University of Arkansas, C. M. Russell Museum, South Dakota State University, Red Cloud Indian School, Akta Lakota Museum, Hood Museum of Art, Dakota Prairie Museum, and the Peabody Museum. 

Ledger Art has a rich history with the Plains people. The term comes from the accounting ledger books that were a common source of paper for Plains Indians during the late 19th century. The medium was revived by Native American artists in the 1960s as a platform for contemporary expression. 

Wilcox has taken the traditional American Indian artform of ledger drawing and firmly placed it in the contemporary world. Rather than trying to retread the romantic subjects of the past, such as warriors, mounted hunters, or similar scenes of days-gone-by, Wilcox deploys his colored pencil to tell stories or comment on issues relevant to today's Native American culture, with imagery steeped in humor and irony. Like all good art, Wilcox's ledger works contain layers of meaning: historic and contemporary symbolism and imagery, personal and cultural commentaries, and sometimes scathing observations of reservation life and its interaction with the dominant American culture. Wilcox's compassion and intelligence temper the content with wit and humanity.


(above: Dwayne Wilcox,"Rectum? Hell, damn near killed UM!" 2012, Ledger paper, colored pencil, 14 x 20 inches. Collection of Missoula Art Museum)


Wilcox's work points to the great diversity of individual American Indian, the persistence of spiritual beliefs and symbols and stories, and the reality that history is relative, related through the subjective experience of the teller. All these understandings can be seen in Wilcox's work, through the sometimes biting humor of some of his drawings and through the poignancy and beauty of others. 

Along with humor there is also a great deal of traditional symbolism, cultural  references, patterns and  stories from Sioux culture.  Though a traditional symbol may be seen side by side with a "Nike" symbol there is much to be learned in these drawing and objects about traditional culture and its perseverance today. The Pow Wow is often the site in these drawing where the traditional and contemporary seamlessly combine. There are often indicators that the native characters in Wilcox's work exist fully in both worlds, the world of coolers, Redbull and Nike, and a world where Pow Wow regalia reveals patterns used for centuries by the Sioux. This is also a world with some sarcasm, and where both native and white men are equally the brunt of Wilcox's crayon and pencil..  

These are important truths for the viewer to take in. The work, for both children and adults, provides great opportunities for critical thinking and the construction of  meaning as viewers are drawn into  analyzing the detail of symbolism and story  in Wilcox's work. Wilcox deliberately uses the form of ledger drawing but refuses to remain it the 19th century with his imagery . He follows the tradition of ledger drawing the changes as the situation of the artist or the artist tribe and lifestyle change He insists on detailing everyday life not warrior scenes from battle scenes long past. Wilcox strongly believes that ledger drawing should "advance with the culture, stay with the times." This may well be the most important component of his work, that students recognize that Indian culture did not stop in 1880 but continues to thrive and evolve to this day.


(above: Dwayne Wilcox, "GET a teepee Already!" 2012, Ledger paper, colored pencil, 14 x 20 inches. Collection of Missoula Art Museum)


Dwayne Wilcox Artist History



·         Smile Award: Santa Fe Indian Art Market

·         Second Place: Mixed Media Santa Fe Indian Art Market

·         Second Place: Drawing NPTA Sioux Falls, SD

·         Second Place: Three Dimensional NPTA Sioux Falls, SD


·         Best of Division: Heard Museum Indian Art Market, Phoenix, AZ


·         First Place Flat Drawing: Santa Fe Indian Art Market

·         Second Place Studio Drawing: Santa Fe Indian Art Market

·         Best of Division: Heard Museum Indian Art Market, Phoenix, AZ

·         First Place Division Three Drawing:  Heritage Center, Pine Ridge, SD

·         Frances Hornikel Humor Award


·         Bush Artist Fellowship: Minneapolis Minnesota

·         First Place Division Three Drawing: Northern Plains Indian Art Market, Sioux Falls, SD

·         Oscar Howe Award: Mitchell SD


·         Hensler Award: Red Cloud Art Show SD


·         First Place, Division I Oil & Acrylic: Northern Plains Indian Art Market, Sioux Falls SD


·         First Place, Division XV Handmade Dolls: Northern Plains Tribal Arts

·         Best of Tribal Arts: Northern Plains Tribal Arts Sioux Falls, SD


·         Jerome Tiger Award Trail Of Tears Theme: Telliquah, OK



Permanent Collections


·         University Of Arkansas At Little Rock?

District of Columbia

·         Smithsonian Institution - Washington DC?


·         Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art - Overland Park , KS?

·         Massachusetts

·         Peabody Museum, Harvard University - Cambridge, MA


·         University Of Missouri At Saint Louis


·         Missoula Art Museum - Missoula MT?

·         Charles M Russell Museum - Great Falls, MT


·         American Fur Trade Museum - Chadron, NE???

New Hampshire

·         Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth - Hanover, NH??

New Mexico

·         Harwood Museum of Art UNM - Taos NM?

North Dakota

·         United Tribes Museum - Bismarck, ND??


·         National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum - Oklahoma City, OK??

South Dakota

·         South Dakota Changing Times Exhibit - Pierre, SD?

·         South Dakota State University - Vermillion, SD

·         Red Cloud Indian School Heritage Center - South Dakota

·         Akta Lakota Museum - Chamberlain, SD

·         Dakota Prairie Museum - Aberdeen, SD




·         Contemporary Indigeneity Exhibition Great Plains Museum - Lincoln, NE

·         Above The Fruited Plains MAM Museum - Missoula, MT

·         De Unkiyepi-We Are Here All My Relation Gallery - Minneapolis, MN

·         Hood Museum of Art Dartmouth College - Hanover, NH

·         Moving Walls, Open Society Institute - 400 59th New York NY

·         Peabody Essex Museum Shape Shifting Native America Art - Salem, MA


·         Morning Star Gallery - Santa Fe, NM

·         National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum - Oklahoma City, OK


·         Native American Art at Dartmouth Hood Museum of Art

·         University of Arkansas, Little Rock Arkansas 

·         Skipped the Light Fandango, Harwood Museum of Art University NM Taos

·         Ledger Art Exhibit, Hood Museum of Art - Hanover, NH

·         Morning Star Gallery - Santa Fe, NM


·         The Bison Exhibit C M Russell Museum - Great Falls, MT

·         Masters In Miniature C M Russell Museum - Great Falls MT


·         Nathan Cummings Foundation - New York, NY

·         Institute of American Indian Arts Museum - Santa Fe, NM 

·         RE: Generations, Legacy & Tradition, Ancient Traders Gallery - Minneapolis, MN

·         Morning Star Gallery - Santa Fe, NM


·         Old Days New Ways " Dahl Fine Arts - Rapid City, SD

·         Broken Trail" Indian Uprising Gallery - Bozeman, MT


·         Impacted Nations" International Traveling Exhibit


·         Louis And Clark Through Native Eyes"   Washington Pavilion - Sioux Falls, SD 


·         Ladies Of The Plains" Indian Uprising Gallery - Bozeman, MT


·         Australian Embassy, Embassy Row - Washington, DC 

·         Heart Dreams And Legends International Traveling Exhibit

·         Horse Play" Indian Uprising Gallery - Bozeman, MT


·         Bloomsburg University - Bloomsburg, PA


Magazines and Journals


·         Big Sky Journal


·         Tempo Magazine


·         Pasatiempo Magazine 


·         Western Art Collector

·         Santafean & Indian Market Magazine, August issue


·         On The Wind Native Peoples Magazine

·         Big Sky Journal Magazine


·         Global Children's Fund Cultural work manual


·         Whispering Wind cover art



·         Native American Art At Dartmouth Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art

·         First Peoples, A Documentary Survey of American Indian History

·         Bedford/ St. Martin's Text Book, 2011

·         U.P.N.E Hanover and London, 2011

·         Views From The Reservation, author John Wills, 2010

·         Pick Sloan Act Revisited, South Dakota Historical Society, 2010

·         Children Of Native America, Global Children's Fund, 2003

·         Lakota Warrior, Joseph White Bull, 1998


Lectures and Speaking Invitations

·         Peabody Museum - Harvard, Mass

·         Hood Museum of Art - Dartmouth, NH

·         Bloomsburg College - PA

·         Harwood Museum of Art - NM

·         Millersville College - PA

·         Marlboro College - VT 

·         C M Russell Museum - MT

·         Dahl Fine Arts - Rapid City, SD

·         International Grant Writing Association - WH

·         Harrisburg Community College - PA

·         Colorado Art Center - Colorado Springs CO


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