Nelson Chasing Hawk, Charles Her Many Horses, and the Great Plains Art Institute

Aug 12th, 2013 | By | Category: Arts & Language, Online features, Web Exclusive
By Lily Martina Lee and Jurgita Antoine


On December 14, 2012, the Great Plains Art Institute at Sinte Gleska University (SGU) hosted a show featuring two senior students, Nelson Chasing Hawk and Charles Her Many Horses. Chasing Hawk is from the Winner/Ideal community on the Rosebud reservation in southern South Dakota. He is the leader of traditional practices for his extended family. Her Many Horses was also born and raised on the Rosebud reservation, but lived for a time in Minneapolis where he attended the University of Minnesota. He has since moved back to Rosebud and is finishing up his art degree at SGU.

Using charcoal drawing and oil painting, many of Nelson Chasing Hawk’s works are portraitures of important people in his family and community. He employs a combination of photographs, imagination, and memory to create masterfully realistic works. The uncanny life-like nature of his drawing and paintings allows the viewer to forget that Chasing Hawk’s works are not photographs. While this is remarkably impressive from a technical standpoint, it also enables the paintings to capture a moment, a place, a mood, or a sense of reality as once experienced by the artist. In “Mary,” Chasing Hawk brings a photograph he took of his wife in 1998 to life through oil painting. One is taken back in time to feel the coy gaze of Mary. Chasing Hawk’s work transcends the separation between viewer and subject, giving way to a psychological space that is contemplative, honest, and real.

“What does it mean to live as an Indian in this time? What does it mean to be an Indian man? What does it mean to live on an Indian reservation?” asks Charles Her Many Horses. He poses these fundamental questions through humor, combining elements from popular and tribal culture. In “Wowoka Red,” Her Many Horses cleverly articulates a comparison between the Ghost Dance prophecy and zombies. Her Many Horses’ use of heavily textured surfaces exaggerates the forms and scenes depicted, which not only generate formal interest, but which also imbue the paintings with a specific narrative and personal voice. This quality differentiates Her Many Horses work from other contemporary pieces that contextualize cultural identity through humor. Her Many Horses paintings undulate between satirical uses of pop-culture, pan-Indian symbolism, and personal experiences that are decidedly Lakota.

Lily Martina Lee is a practicing artist living and working in Kirksville, Missouri, where she also teaches in the Art Department at Truman State University.

Jurgita Antoine is a project director at the Great Plains Art Institute at Sinte Gleska University.

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