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Mother and Two Children / Lois Smokey, 1907 - February 1, 1981, Native American; Kiowa (Artist)

Essay/Description

In the mid- to late 1920s, Oscar Jacobson, an art professor at the University of Oklahoma, encouraged Kiowa (Cáuigù)1 artist Bou-ge-Tah and the other members of the Kiowa Six2 art collective to add printmaking to their studio practices. Members of the collective were creating paintings in Kiowa Style or Flatstyle, which was rooted in pictorial traditions such as ledger art3 and known for its color-blocked fields that have no shading, perspective, or background. Jacobson suggested they also produce a limited edition of fine art stencil prints of several of their paintings. The artist was also advised by another University of Oklahoma art professor, Edith Mahier, who suggested that Bou-ge-Tah utilize her own memory and lived experience instead of models, thereby further affirming Plains traditions of pictorial art as visual autoethnography or personal narrative.

Bou-ge-Tah’s Mother and Two Children is a pochoir print, a technique made popular by twentieth-century artists such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. In pochoir (which is French for “stencil”), color is applied to the print through the use of a series of stencils, one for each color. These limited-edition prints of the 1920s created a new model for Flatstyle painting, through the expanded distribution of copies of a single painted image.

Although Bou-ge-Tah’s paintings are rare, Gilcrease Museum has several, including Kiowa Family (02.264), the tempera work from which this pochoir print was created.

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

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1 Cáuigù is the correct identity used by the Kiowa Tribe.
2 Pearce, Women and Ledger Art, 33. The Kiowa Six (first known as the Kiowa Five) was an early twentieth-century artist collective under Jacobson’s tutelage. The collective birthed an Indigenous art movement known as the Kiowa Style of painting, also called Oklahoma Style and Flatstyle. The other Kiowa Six artists were Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, and Monroe Tsatoke, and all are represented in Gilcrease. Bou-ge-Tah was the only female artist in the group. Her English name is Lois Smokey.
3 Jordan, Ledger Narratives, 3.

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Title(s): 
Mother and Two Children
Creator(s): 
Lois Smokey, 1907 - February 1, 1981, Native American; Kiowa (Artist)
Culture: 
Native American; Kiowa
Date: 
1929
Materials/Techniques: 
pochoir on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of Sharon Bell and Gregory Gray
Accession No: 
15.1219
Previous Number(s): 
TL2018.24.12
Department: 
Signed by hand in orange ink, "Bou-ge-Tah Smoky" in lower right on recto; Inscribed in print in ink, "Copyright by C. Szwedzicki, 1929." in lower left on verso.
Not On View

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