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Woman Dancer / Marian Terasaz


In Woman Dancer, Marian Terasaz depicts a Comanche woman holding a wooden lance. Her buckskin dress has loomed beadwork across the shoulders, and her woman’s breastplate is made of thin, hair-pipe bone beads. Her belt, of darkly colored saddle leather, is decorated with two rows of small German-silver brass brads. The beaded pouch hanging from her belt would have held medicines, plants, paints, or other small objects. Her leggings are Comanche style, recognizable by their characteristic outer flaps, and are painted with orange and green ocher. In the lower right corner, the artist has inscribed her Comanche name followed by the date: “Aukemah –’38.”

In this Flatstyle painting, the subject is isolated in mid-motion. The background or context for the figure or activity would be filled in by privileging the perspective of the Indigenous audience. That is, the perspective of the artist and her relationships to home, community, and place are essential to completing the visually unspoken context. Here, the woman is attending a ceremony. The frontal perspective indicates that Terasaz attended this same ceremony, because artists created paintings such as this from memory, depicting a moment that they witnessed or participated in. Flatstyle art originally mimicked ledger art (see, for example, this drawing by Red Eagle) in that it was autobiographical. The artist needed to be present to create and then depict this memory. Flatstyle artists began depicting other people’s memories only after realizing that there was a market for works in this style. Artists such as Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Crumbo (1912–1989) and others imitated and augmented these styles, generating stylistic variations in the genre.

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

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Woman Dancer
Marian Terasaz (Artist)
Native American; Comanche
tempera on paper
Portrait; single-sided 0.410-0.420mm grey colored, marbled paper. Uneven distribution of fibers in transmitted light.
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
0227.30; 22254
Not On View

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