Opening today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Artists of the Earth and Sky. Below are some details of the show as well as some stunning images of works featured.
If you are in New York, make sure to see this exhibition.   


This exhibition will unite Plains Indian masterworks found in European and North American collections, from pre-contact to contemporary, ranging from a two-thousand-year-old human-effigy stone pipe to contemporary paintings, photographs, and a video-installation piece. Works of art collected centuries ago by French traders and travelers will be seen together with those acquired by Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition of 1804–06, along with objects from the early reservation period and recent works created in dialogue with traditional forms and ideas.
The distinct Plains aesthetic—singular, ephemeral, and materially rich—will be revealed through an array of forms and media: painting and drawing; sculptural works in stone, wood, antler, and shell; porcupine-quill and glass-bead embroidery; feather work; painted robes depicting figures and geometric shapes; richly ornamented clothing; composite works; and ceremonial objects. Many nations, including Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Lakota, Blackfeet, Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche, and Meskwaki will be represented.

Geography: United States, Central Plains
Culture: Central Plains, Lakota (Teton Sioux), Cheyenne or Arapaho
Medium: Grizzly bear claws, native-tanned leather, wool yarn
 Dimensions: Length: 17 in. (43.2 cm)
 Classifications: Bone/Ivory-Ornaments, Jewelry
Credit Line: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (088020.000)
This necklace served as an emblem of bravery. Composed of forty-six bears’ claws, arranged by size, it would have taken years to assemble. Some tribes believed such ornaments were sacred and held special ceremonies to honor them. Revered for its ferocity and supernatural power, the grizzly bear was associated with both war and healing, and since ancient times, men have sought the animal’s spiritual help.


Artist: Walter Richard West Sr. (American, 1912–1996) 
Date: 1949 Geography: United States, Oklahoma 
 Culture: Southern Cheyenne 
 Medium: Casein on paper 
 Dimensions: 24 5/8 × 35 1/8 in. (62.5 × 89.2 cm) 
 Classification: Paper-Paintings 
 Credit Line: Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Museum purchase (1949.20) 
This painting is one of Dick West’s masterpieces and a classic example of his portrayal of traditional Cheyenne life. The work provides details of the Sun Dance, an annual Plains ceremony celebrating the regeneration of the living earth. Here, West conveys the visual richness of this most sacred event, representing important elements—the ceremonial altar, ritual acts, and symbolic body paint—with great accuracy. Although the U.S. government banned the Sun Dance during the early days of reservation life, around 1880–1900, the ceremony flourishes today. 

Peyote Box
Artist: Johnny Hoof (American, active late 20th century)
Date: ca. 1975
Geography: United States, Oklahoma
Culture: Arapaho
Medium: Commercial leather, metal, pigment
Dimensions: 9 1/2 × 7 × 21 1/2 in. (24.1 × 17.8 × 54.6 cm)
Classification: Hide-Containers
Credit Line: Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gift of Pearl Big Bow (87.60)
 Johnny Hoof created this Peyote box for Harding Big Bow, former president of the Native American Church of Oklahoma, as a gift from his family. Hoof painted Big Bow’s name on the front, along with a pair of iconic Peyote birds. The image on the back represents Dawn Woman, a prominent figure in the origin myths of the Church. Similar boxes are still used today to store and transport feather fans and gourd rattles, among other ritual objects.

Three Young Kiowas
Date: 1928–1935
Geography: United States, Oklahoma, Carnegie
Culture: Kiowa
Medium: Photograph
Dimensions: 8 inches x 10 inches
Classification: Photographs
 Credit Line: University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Chickasha, Horace Poolaw Collection (1106/1645)
In this photograph of Lela Ware (1914–1974), the artist’s sister Trecil Poolaw (1913–1940), and Paul Zumwalt (b. 1912), the two fashionable Kiowa women lean on a new automobile that may belong to Zumwalt, the man sitting inside. Poolaw’s subjects live in a world that is undeniably modern and Native—and they appear to be flourishing. The photographer’s cosmopolitan images of Indians provided a powerful counterpoint to the stereotypes of the period. Poolaw was a semiprofessional photographer, taking pictures of his own family, friends, and events in his community from the late 1920s through the 1950s, a time of great transition on the Plains. He was inspired by photojournalism of the period, particularly images reproduced in Life magazine.

Artist: Rebecca Blackwater
Date: ca. 1915
Geography: United States, Nebraska or South Dakota, Santee or Rosebud
Culture: Dakota (Eastern Sioux) or Lakota (Teton Sioux)
Medium: Cotton cloth and thread
Dimensions: 70 × 78 in. (177.8 × 198.1 cm)
 Classification: Textiles-Woven
 Credit Line: Collection of Joan and Bill Alfond, Boston
Pictographic histories abound in Plains art and are found on painted robes, shirts, ledger drawings, and winter counts. Although men usually created these histories, a woman made this rare quilt. Everyday life is featured instead of battle scenes, and in two humorous vignettes, warriors encounter kangaroos. The familiar crossed hatchet and pipe, an emblem of peace and diplomacy, also appears in the upper right and lower left corners. Quilt stencils, from a women’s magazine or newspaper of the day, may have inspired the repeated images.

Four Seasons Series (Fall) 
Artist: Wendy Red Star (American, born 1981)
Date: 2006
Geography: United States, Montana
Culture: Crow
Medium: Archival pigment print on Museo silver rag mounted on Dibond
Dimensions: 35.5 x 37 inches each panel
Classification: Prints
Credit Line: Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas (2014.06-2014.09)
In this four-part photographic work, Wendy Red Star pokes fun at romantic idealizations of American Indians as “one with nature.” She depicts herself, dressed in traditional Crow regalia, in four majestic landscapes, one for each season. Inflatable animals, plastic flowers, Astroturf, and other artificial materials reference the dioramas of Native peoples often seen in natural history museums. Panoramic images of the Western landscape, commercially produced in the 1970s, are reflected in these prints.

Artist: Nellie Two Bear Gates (Mahpiya Bogawin, Gathering of Clouds Woman)
Date: 1903
Geography: United States, North or South Dakota
Culture: Lakota (Teton Sioux)
Medium: Commercial and native-tanned leather, glass beads, metal
Dimensions: 9 1/2 × 15 in. (24.1 × 38.1 cm)
Classifications: Textiles-Beadwork, Beads-Containers
Credit Line: Collection of Berte and Alan Hirschfield
Nellie Gates made this case for her daughter Josephine as a gift upon her graduation from the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. On one side, she beaded the deeds of her father, Two Bear, in the 1863 Battle of White Stone Hill. On the reverse, she created images of the Lakota’s last big buffalo hunt in 1882. Gates was one of the most accomplished bead workers of her time. She created many other objects to honor meaningful events in her family history.

Pair of Cuffs
Date: ca. 1925
Geography: United States, Iowa
Culture: Meskwaki
Medium: Cotton cloth, glass beads, native-tanned leather
Dimensions: Height: 6 7/8 in. (17.5 cm) Length: 13 7/8 in. (35.2 cm)
Classifications: Textiles-Costumes-Accessories, Beads-Costumes
Credit Line: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Purchase: the Donald D. Jones Fund for American Indian Art and gift of the Svacina Family (2002.1.A,B)
A male powwow dancer wore these cuffs as part of his regalia. Although the beaded images appear to be nontraditional, they represent ancient Meskwaki concepts. The American eagle on the Great Seal of the United States suggests a Thunderbird, a powerful guardian spirit, and the shiny white and purple glass beads are reminiscent of earlier wampum, or clamshell beads filled with symbolic meaning. The cuffs epitomize the departure from tribal styles seen in the work of innovative twentieth-century Plains artists.

Artist: Dana Claxton (Canadian, born 1959)
Date: 2003
Geography: Canada
Culture: Hunkpapa Lakota (Sioux)
Medium: Four-channel video
Classification: Variable Media-Video
Credit Line: Dana Claxton and Winsor Gallery, Vancouver
Dana Claxton is known for her exploration of Lakota perspective in relation to contemporary life. For this work, she learned to make her own rattles in order to explore their function in indigenous healing technology and to invoke the spiritual realm. The movement, music, and prayers that structure the video installation convey the dynamic nature of Plains Indian art, found in the rhythmic sounds and steps of traditional ceremony and in the synthesizers and Peyote songs heard here. The interplay of four projected panels refers to the four directions, four seasons, and other classifications of the natural world in Plains cosmology. The echoing of images reflects the continuum of earth and sky. In Lakota belief, Claxton explains, “the above world and the below world mirror each other.”