Saturday, January 15, 2011

Native American Women

Three American Indian Women: Sacajawea, Pocahontas and Sarah Winnemucca of the Northern Paiutes
This series of silk paintings is devoted to the Native American women who contributed to the course of American history. The story of Pocahontas saving John Smith life is famous, as well as the cross-country journey of Sacajawea with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and Sarah Winnemucca earned fame by being a peacemaker for her Paiute people. Being placed between cultures, these brave women worked hard to preserve the traditions of their tribes and took on the roles of diplomats and spokeswomen for their people. In my silk painted portraitures I tried to reflect the amazing stories of these extraordinary women.

Pocahontas, 20in x 18in 

The favored daughter of Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas finds herself torn between two worlds when the British settlers came to Jamestown and she became a link between the two diverse cultures. She is most famous for saving the life of Captain John Smith. According to an account written later by Smith, Pocahontas saved Smith's life by throwing herself down and cradling his head before he was clubbed to death. Several years later, Pocahontas was converted to Christianity and was baptized with the name Rebecca. While being held in Jamestown, Pocahontas met a distinguished colonist, a successful tobacco planter, named John Rolfe. The two fell in love and planned to marry. The marriage was blessed by Virginia governor Sir Thomas Dale, as well as Chief Powhatan. The wedding began eight years of relative peace between the colonists and Indians known as the Peace of Pocahontas. In this painting, Pocahontas is shown as an Indian princess with tobacco flowers in her hands.

Sacagawea, 20in x18in

Sacajawea was a Lemhi Shoshone woman, who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition in their exploration of the Western United States.  Encountering danger, hardship, and excitement along the way, Lewis and Clark carried out their plan of exploring the western part of the continents. One of the most important moments on this great expedition came when they met Sacajawea.  She became translator, peacemaker, caretaker, and guide--and an invaluable member of the Corps.  She traveled thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean between 1804 and 1806. During the expedition she gave birth to her son Jean, who would soon become America’s youngest explorer. In this painting of Sacajawea and her son, I wanted to reflect the spirit of the expedition.

Winnemucca, 20in x18in 
Sarah Winnemucca, whose Paiute Indian name was Thocmetony (Shell Flower), was famous for being a Native American educator, lecturer, tribal leader, and writer best known for her book Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims. This book is an autobiographical account of her people during their first forty years of contact with explorers and settlers. Sarah was a person of two worlds. At the time of her birth her people had only very limited contact with Euro-Americans; however she spent much of her adult life in white society.  During the Snake and Bannock War Sarah served as an interpreter and negotiator between her people and the U.S. Army. Despite her influence, the Paiutes were moved to the Yakima Reservation in Washington. As a spokesperson for her people, she gave over 300 speeches to win support for them.  In order to attract crowds, Winnemucca even dressed as an Indian princess. In this piece I decided to paint Winnemucca against Shell Flowers because she said, " I am a shell flower, who could be as strong or as beautiful as me."