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Cornstalk Match / Franklin Gritts


Franklin Gritts’s tempera painting Cornstalk Match portrays four Indigenous men shooting arrows fashioned from cornstalks, a game won by the person who shoots the farthest and the most accurately. The Flatstyle1 background is void except for a sparse ground line registered by green patches of grass. Each of the competitors is equipped with a Plains-style longbow made of wood from the Osage orange tree. Skill-based Indigenous games such as lacrosse, stickball, double ball, lance toss, and canoe races were created for myriad social and cultural purposes including diplomacy, as events connected to ceremonial celebrations, and for well-being and health, in addition to simply lifting the spirits of the people in the community.

Here, Gritts uses Flatstyle’s narrative potential to convey a sense of ease, recreation, and community in a way that doesn’t center a non-Indigenous gaze. While other artists have created depictions of ceremonies, cultural subjects, gender-based scenes, and family narratives in this style, this is an early example of an artist depicting unannotated autobiographical information through a celebration of the ordinary. Jerome Tiger’s 1966 Stomp Dancer Taking Medicine (02.1713) is likewise an intimate glimpse of an everyday moment.

Gritts (Cherokee, Potawatomi) completed his formal arts training at the Haskell Institute (now Haskell Indian Nations University) in Lawrence, Kansas, where he earned a BFA. His predominantly Flatstyle painted works are also in the collections of the Philbrook Museum of Art (Tulsa), the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (Oklahoma City), and the Muskogee Public Library.

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

1 The Kiowa Six (first known as the Kiowa Five) was an early twentieth-century artist collective under the tutelage of Professor Oscar Jacobson at the University of Oklahoma. The collective birthed an Indigenous art movement known as the Kiowa Style of painting, also called Oklahoma Style and Flatstyle, which is characterized by a lack of figural shading, and backgrounds that have a shallow or indistinguishable depth of field. Kiowa Six artists were Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Lois Smokey (Bou-ge-Tah), and Monroe Tsatoke, and all are represented in the Gilcrease.

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Cornstalk Match
Franklin Gritts (Artist)
Native American; Cherokee (United Keetoowah Band), Potawatomi
tempera on board
Landscape; single-sided 1.749-1.759mm cream colored, machine made illustration board. Markings on verso.
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
0227.474; 30376
Not On View

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