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Medicine Woman / Ruthe Blalock Jones


Medicine Woman by Ruthe Blalock Jones (Delaware, Shawnee, Peoria) calls attention to the modest yet profound roles played by women within the Native American Church (NAC). Blalock Jones was raised in the NAC, and this artwork acknowledges a connection between her personal experience and the shared experiences of medicine women. Blurring the lines between realism and the Flatstyle techniques that became synonymous with Indigenous art produced in Oklahoma in the early twentieth century, Medicine Woman provides an intimate, first-person commentary that illuminates the interplay between presence and absence, between hypervisibility and invisibility in the portrayal of femininity and ceremonial space.

The medicine woman is shown kneeling in active prayer in the tipi. Blalock Jones centers the woman and frames her colorfully while still obscuring her face, for modesty, with a finely beaded ceremonial feather fan with thinly twisted buckskin fringe. The background is a smooth canvas tipi wall supported by dark and weathered poles. The ground line is formed by a comfortable and abundant array of brightly colored trade prayer blankets.

The woman is dressed in an unpresuming midnight-blue ankle-length frock and Plains-style high-top moccasins. A red and yellow beaded barrette holds her long gray hair in place. In a nod to the trade economies that fueled nineteenth-century Indigenous fashion trends, Blalock Jones has dressed her in an intricately adorned blue shawl with red silk fringe, which appears to cascade over the contours of her clothing.

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

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Medicine Woman
Ruthe Blalock Jones (Artist)
Native American; Delaware, Shawnee, Peoria
late 20th century
tempera on mat board
Portrait; single-sided 1.185-1.195mm white mat board, textured.
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Purchased with funds gifted by Robert and Roxana Lorton
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
TL1998.56; 0227.1942; TL 1998.56; 23527
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