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Prayer for Mother

by Archie Blackowl

Tempera on paper
Dimensions: 18 x 20
Purchased through a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, 1972

Prayer for Mother by Archie Blackowl

The Artwork

In this work and many others, Archie Blackowl painted a scene that captures a moment in traditonal Southern Plains life. Painted against a black background in a flat style that was popularized at Bacone College, Blackowl depicts a ceremonial scene with two Native American figures on each side of a central fire. Central to the image is the blue peyote bird ascending in flight above the fire. Blackowl uses approximate symmetry and a long curving blue line to guide the viewer's attention to to the pair on each side of the fire.

The Artist

Archie Blackowl, a full-blooded Cheyenne, was a prominent traditional Native American artist. He was born November 23, 1911 in Custer County, Oklahoma, and passed away September 15, 1992 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Blackowl was raised by his grandparents in a traditional Cheyenne home, and was introduced to painting at the age of six when he saw Red Tooth painting the skin lining of a teepee.

Though Archie Blackowl had an early introduction to art, it was not until 1930 that he began to seriously pursue art. He studied art at the University of Oklahoma, University of Kansas, Chicago Art Institute, Rockefeller Art Center, and the School of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he studied mural techniques with Olle Nordmark at the Indian Art Center in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Blackowl’s career involved various jobs including a government muralist, industrial painter for the aircraft industry, Walt Disney Studios employee, and professional artist. He is best known for his portrayal of traditional Cheyenne ceremonies, Southern Plains dances, and Sun Dance ceremonies. Widely popular, his work can be seen in galleries and museums throughout the country.