Lakota father and son artists make historyBy Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent
nativesunnews.today RAPID CITY – Beginning in December, the Dahl Arts Center near downtown Rapid City will feature the first ever Lakota father/son art exhibit. Father, Gerald Yellow Hawk and son, Jim Yellow Hawk will be featured in a 3-month exhibit titled “Ate Chinhintku Kici Wakpazopi,” which will show the artists contrasting traditional and modern art styles. Both father and son honor the Lakota culture and the horse nation plays a consistent role in their paintings; for Gerald, it would be the horse and for Jim, it would be the iron horse (motorcycle). Although they their art contrasts in style, the story telling remains the same. They are descendants of a former keeper of the sacred pipe, which is now in the hands of Arvol Looking Horse on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. From this sacred history, both artists stay true to the Lakota ways and traditional teachings. These teachings come through in their art. Jim Yellow Hawk was raised in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota with parents who were pastors at a church on the reservation. After graduating, Jim attended Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he received a degree in Fine Arts. Like many Lakota artists on the reservation, he had an overactive imagination and plenty of time to translate those thoughts to a paper canvas. “Pretty much all my life I’ve been painting or doing drawings. Since elementary, I knew I wanted to make a career out of this,” said Jim. Early on Jim had a vision of becoming an award winning artist. “I remember being a young boy and having this dream of being at the Santa Fe Indian Art Market and getting a blue ribbon.” Eventually, Jim applied as a fellow to the Santa Fe Indian Art Market and received an award and his “blue ribbon”. Following college, Jim has lived in the Rapid City area for the past twenty years. He owns a home in the Black Hills near Pactola Lake. In this serene setting of forest land and rolling hills, he has built himself a small cabin studio outside of his home. During the year, Jim features his award winning art at the Black Hills Indian Art Market, Black Hills Powwow, Northern Plains Indian Art Market and Native POP (People of the Plains) art shows. As an artist, Jim had felt the Dahl Arts Center was not a welcoming place for Native American artists. But over the years, he has recognized the changing atmosphere of Rapid City and the acceptance of Indian art locally. “Initially, I always wanted to do a show at the Dahl by myself. I’ve had shows at the Journey Museum, but here (Dahl Arts Center) it’s a little different. When I was in my 20’s or 30’s, I would go in the Dahl and there would be this racial tension. I pretty much already had my name out there, but they never recognized you or they didn’t know who you were. So that is what kept me away,” Jim shared candidly.
It was after becoming nationally and internationally recognized that Jim began to see the benefit of being a featured artist at the Dahl Arts Center. “I’ve been in New Zealand and seen the Maori’s art market there and I was really impressed. So coming back here, it feels really good to show the city (Rapid City) some of my pieces.” Jim’s art is a modern interpretation of Native American life in a rural and urban context. “It’s not just a pretty picture, but I try to tell a story and make people think. I was trying to select certain pieces that would do that.” Having several dozen pieces in his personal collection to choose from, he selected art pieces that tell his own life throughout the years. “I try to tell a story of what is real and what we’re (Native peoples) are all about. Sometimes it may be drugs, or gangs, or Standing Rock. It kind of varies.” Jim chooses to use various styles of art to tell the story of modern day struggles through his visions. These pieces are not the usual “Indian art” in which Native Americans are seen riding horses or outdoor settings of traditional camp sites, but rather a raw interpretation of contemporary times are woven into the imagery. Both father and son have chosen pieces they’ve done over the decades for the art exhibition at the Dahl Arts Center. “What happened for both of us, me and my father, was more of a retrospective of our works.” This span covers over 30 years of Jim’s journey as an artist and features his take on different time periods of Native American culture, including Standing Rock, powwow dancing and motorcycle riding.