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Lullaby / Lois Smokey, 1907 - February 1, 1981, Native American; Kiowa (Artist)

Essay/Description

Lullaby depicts a Kiowa (Cáuigù)1 mother holding her child up toward the sky as she looks upward, her lips parted in song. The mother’s cheeks are adorned with red ocher paint. She is wearing a yellow painted Cáuigù buckskin dress with beadwork at the sleeve line and skirt tail, and her belt has a worked silver drop trailing from beneath her fingertip-length fringed sleeves. Her beaded leggings are made from braintanned hide, whitened by the tanning process. The child is swaddled in a Cáuigù cradleboard, designed and created by the family’s matriarchs. Intricate beadwork has been sewn along both right and left panels, and the beaded cradle casement was constructed from hide. The cradle is fastened to a wooden lattice, with twisted hide fringes sewn to the footer.

The Kiowa style of painting employed by Bou-ge-Tah (whose English name was Lois Smokey) is distinguished by a flattened depth of field, which is also found in narrative ledger art.2 Because the Kiowa style is devoid of shading, its artists translate motion and fluidity through diagonal line armovements, indicated here by the representation of the mother’s dress and hair at an angle to imply a breeze.

Lullaby provides an intimate perspective on Cáuigù motherhood and childhood. During Bou-ge-Tah’s studio-based education at the University of Oklahoma, her mother traveled with her as a chaperone and stayed for the duration of her tutelage by artist Oscar Jacobson.

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2020

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1 Cáuigù is the correct identity used by the Kiowa Tribe.
2 Ledger art was created by Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Caddo warriors who, because of colonialism, were imprisoned between 1875 and 1878 at Fort Marion (now called Castillo de San Marcos) in St. Augustine, Florida. Attempts were made at Fort Marion to assimilate and colonize the prisoners, who were encouraged to renounce their culture and were given a Western education and taught to speak and write English. They also continued to make narrative figurative drawings and paintings, although now using media such as graphite, ink, colored pencils, oil pastels, and water colors on paper rather than hide and natural pigments. The works are called ledger art because the paper was from accountant’s ledger books. After they were released from prison in 1878, several Fort Marion survivors returned to Fort Renoin Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), where they enlisted as scouts and continued drawing.

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Title(s): 
Lullaby
Creator(s): 
Lois Smokey, 1907 - February 1, 1981, Native American; Kiowa (Artist)
Culture: 
Native American; Kiowa
Date: 
mid-20th century
Materials/Techniques: 
tempera on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
02.509
Previous Number(s): 
0227.509; 28164
Department: 
Signed by hand in tempera, "Bou-ge-Tah Smoky" in lower right on recto; Notes in the artist's hand.
Not On View

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