Skip navigation

Women's Voices at the Council

by Joan Hill

Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 38.25 x 28.25
Gift of the artist on behalf of the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, 1990

Women's Voices at the Council by Joan Hill

The Artwork

Visually the artist achieves unity through the limited color palette and repetition of similar shapes. Though the work is devoid of any background, the artist achieves depth and a sense of place through the placement of three small figures on the left which appear looking in the opposite direction from the five women and the child on the right side of the canvas. The artist has also reserved red for emphasis as it contrasts significantly from the black and taupe utilized throughout the painting.

When this work shown on September 28, 1990 at the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, the following explanation was presented:

Women's Voices at the Council depicts the importance of women in American Indian society. The painting's central figure is the Beloved Woman, who was head of her tribe's women's council and spoke to the Great Spirit. Many tribal cultures have been and continue to be matriarchal and women are afforded great respect. They continue to have a voice in the daily affairs of their tribes and often cast the deciding votes for chieftainship.

The Artist

Of Creek and Cherokee descent, artist Joan Hill was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, on December 19, 1930. Educated at Muskogee public schools, the artist attended Muskogee Junior College and Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, where she received a bachelor's degree in education. As an artist she studied with Frederick Taubes and Dick West and took courses in art at the Philbrook Museum. As she was not raised in an American Indian tradition, West encouraged her to observe and learn from traditional Indian cultures, history, and art. She taught briefly at Roosevelt Junior High School in Tulsa from 1952 to 1956, then she devoted herself to painting full time. In addition to pursuing her own artistic career, Hill served as the director of the Muskogee Art Guild from 1958 to 1964. During the 1960s, prominent venues such as the Gilcrease Museum, the Oklahoma Art Center, the Southern Plains Indian Museum, and the Museum of New Mexico exhibited her work.

In 1974, Hill was the first woman to be designated as a Master Artist by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum. By 2001, Hill had accumulated 270 awards for her paintings, making her the most honored American Indian female artist in the United States. In 1990, she served on the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women and as a commissioner on the U.S. Indian Arts and Crafts Board in 2001. The Philbrook awarded her the Waite Phillips Special Artists Trophy for lifetime achievement, the Smithsonian Institution designated her one of the People of the Century, and she received the Academia Italia's (Cremona) Oscar D'Italia Award in 1985. Institutions holding her works include the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Bacone College, Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe, and Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa.