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March 10, 2016

Highlighting the women artists in “Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains”

Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains” opens this Saturday, March 12, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. Alongside historic masterworks, the exhibition showcases 50 new pieces by contemporary Native artists. Sixteen contemporary artists are represented, three of whom are women. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are taking a closer look at one work by each of these women that will be featured in the exhibition. 

Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux) is skilled at both bead- and quillwork. After learning how to bead simple belts at the young age of 10, she now enjoys creating beautiful pieces based upon abstract and realistic designs focused on nature, mythology, and daily life.

Growing Thunder Fogarty created Doll with Honor Dress in collaboration with her brother, Darryl Growing Thunder. Darryl drew the horses while Juanita made the doll and completed the bead- and quillwork. Darryl is also a featured artist in the exhibition. 

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Above: Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty. Right: Doll with Honor Dress, 2009. Made by Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux, b. 1969) and Darryl Growing Thunder (Assiniboine/Sioux, b. 1967). Hide, muslin, porcupine quills, beads, ribbon, brass thimbles, brass spots, paint, horsehair. NMAI 26/7725


Vanessa Jennings (Kiowa/Pima) has been quoted as saying, “I don't like the title 'artist.' I look at myself and see myself as just a traditional woman.” She is well known as a regalia maker, clothing designer, cradleboard maker, and bead artist. These skills bring her recognition as a keeper of Kiowa culture.

According to Jennings, in her culture it is not proper for men to brag about war deeds, so the women dress up to tell the stories and honor the men. Jennings created this battle dress in a style similar to those worn by women related to members of the Ton-Kon-Ga, or the Kiowa Black Leggings Society.


26-5646_detailAbove: Vanessa Jennnings. Right: Kiowa battle dress (detail), ca. 2000. Made by Vanessa Jennings (Kiowa/Pima, b. 1952). Rainbow selvage red and blue wool; hide; imitation elk teeth (bone); brass sequins; brass bells; military patches; ribbons; thread; dyed tooling leather; German silver conchos, spots, and buckle. NMAI 26/5646


Lauren Good Day Giago (Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree) is recognized for the passion she brings to revitalizing her people’s cultural arts and merging them with new methods during her creation process. She began with creating beadwork and tribal regalia and has since moved to quillwork, ledger drawings, parfleche, and fashion.

Plains narrative art is known historically as a predominantly male art form focused on hunting and battles. Giago’s ledger art, however, depicts women, children, families, and courtship. In this particular piece, she shows the day she and her husband, who is Oglala Lakota, ceremonially adopted a relative’s daughter.

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Above: Lauren Good Day Giago. Right: Making of Relatives, 2012. Lauren Good Day Giago (Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree, b. 1987). Antique ledger paper, colored pencil, graphite, ink, felt-tipped marker. NMAI 26/9023


These three women are demonstrating their people’s culture through amazing artworks. Join the conversation throughout Women’s History Month by telling us on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page about amazing indigenous women in your life and what makes them so special using the hashtag #WomenAre.

—Shanice Jarmon, NMAI

Shanice Jarmon is a social media specialist in the National Museum of the American Indian’s Office of Public Affairs.

Portraits courtesy of the artists; object photos by Ernest Amoroso, NMAI.

Unbound: Plains Narrative Art will be on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York from March 12 to December 4, 2016.

Curated by Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota), with historic works from the museum's collections by 14 artists. The 11 who are known by name are Long Soldier (Lakota/Nakota), Mountain Chief (Blackfeet), Bear’s Heart (Southern Cheyenne), Zo-tom (Kiowa), Black Chicken (Yanktonai), Canté-wani′ća/No Heart (Yanktonai), Chief Washakie (Shoshone), Spotted Tail (Crow), Old Buffalo (Lakota/Nakota), Rain in ihe Face (Lakota), and Ćehu′pa/Jaw (Hunkpapa Lakota).

Works commissioned by the museum for Unbound are by Dr. Ronald Burgess (Comanche), Sherman Chaddlesone (Kiowa), David Dragonfly (Pikuni), Lauren Good Day Giago (Arikara/Hidatsa/Blackfeet/Plains Cree), Darryl Growing Thunder (Assiniboine/Sioux), Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux),Terrance Guardipee (Blackfeet), Vanessa Jennings (Kiowa/Pima), Dallin Maybee (Arapaho), Chester Medicine Crow (Apsáalooke [Crow]), Chris Pappan (Kaw Nation/Osage/Cheyenne River Sioux), Joe Pulliam (Lakota), Martin E. Red Bear (Oglala Lakota), Norman Frank Sheridan (Southern Cheyenne/Arapaho), Dwayne Wilcox (Oglala/Lakota), Jim Yellowhawk (Cheyenne River Lakota).

Generous support for the project is provided by Ameriprise Financial. 



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