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beadwork leather feathers haida indigenous art raven

Beadwork: Tamara Reily Finesses Ancient Skills in a Modern World

beadwork leather feathers haida indigenous art raven

Raven Holding the Moon — beadwork on brain-tanned leather, with feathers, by Tamara Reily

We have no choice about who we are when we are born: our ancestry, the color of our skin and hair and eyes, who our parents are.

It’s what we do with what we have that we can be blamed for or praised for, if blame or praise are necessary. For many people, including many artists, there is a drive deep down that impels them to walk a certain path and reach for a specific goal, regardless of whether or not they are “supposed” to feel that way.

“Have you ever felt a calling that you just had to follow?” asks Tamara Reily, a “mountain woman at heart” who has been creating beadwork and leatherwork for more than 40 years. Some would say that, because the Dayton, WA, artist is Pawnee (an indigenous group of people native to the Oklahoma region), she does this because it is in her blood. Others would argue that because she is not full-blooded Pawnee, she should not pursue the path she does. Still others, a small but not vocal enough minority, would observe that it’s nobody’s business to dissect the inner workings of an individual human soul. Reily does what she does because, deep down, she feels a connection to the people of her past.

beadwork scabbard knife deer antler indigenous tamara reily

A deer antler skinning knife. The fully beaded scabbard is made from brain-tanned deer leather and deer horn, by Tamara Reily

“My family line follows many paths — Native American Pawnee, French, and Dutch. As a young adult I found out my grandfather was Pawnee but not a full-blood; that comes from my great grandma — she was a full-blood Pawnee.

“I always knew this, from way down deep inside me.”

Mountain Living and Beadwork

From the time she was a child, Reily has pursued a path of being outdoors, learning from nature, studying the ways of the Pawnee, growing toward and into the person she feels within her heart that she is meant to be. She raised her three children in the mountains of Montana in an area called the Yaak, where the family had no running water, electricity or phone. At the age of 40, she moved to Alaska to become a dog musher. While there, she was invited to be a drum leader, and traveled around with other musicians to powwows and gatherings. Wherever she has lived she has set up space for beadwork and leatherwork, focusing on both traditional techniques as well as fusions of design representing both old and new.

“My beadwork and leatherwork represent a proud people to me, whose culture should be honored. For example, the many types of leather bags I make have a different purpose in the everyday life of the Native people. There are gathering bags, medicine bags, pipe bags, tobacco bags. I try to make each as traditional as possible and do it with respect and honor.”

black horse spirit beadwork bag tamara reily

The black horse spirit, according to Reilly, symbolizes strength and passion that will carry through the most difficult times. Spirit Horse Beadwork Bag, hand-crafted by Tamara Reily.

Reily sells her work at powwows and craft festivals in Montana, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. She noticed that in many of the places where she sells, she is one of the few offering beadwork, which she believes is a dying art.

“Beadwork is hard to make and very time consuming, and it takes a lot of patience. Each piece of work is time and history repeating itself, honoring my native culture.”

Rich History Based upon Ancient Wisdom

The various motifs she creates have individual stories, rich histories based upon ancient legend that has been passed down through generations. For example, her Mishibeshu Beadwork Pipe Bag pattern features the “underwater lynx” known to the ancient Ojibwe as one of the great powers of Lake Superior. A representation of water and waves rests near his feet. Beneath that is a “shield” with a portrait of two women, symbolic of strength and continuity. Seven feathers at the bottom represent Reily (whose gifted name is Painted Feather) and her six siblings.

mishipeshu pepe beadwork bag ojibewe tamara reily

Incorporating numerous motifs, the Mishipeshu Pipe Bag draws upon the legends of the ancient Ojibewe on Lake Superior. By Tamara Reily

She is not bound to one inflexible interpretation of an animal or a symbol, she adds, because the indigenous people of North America were not so bound:

“Consider the turtle, a sacred creature among Native American tribes. Each tribe has a cultural view of the turtle, slightly different. The deeper meaning, however, remains the same.

“To me the meaning signifies good health and long life. So when I gift or sell a turtle rattle I am also gifting good health and long life.

“Turtle also teaches us to walk our paths in life in peace. I always teach this in ceremonies: walk in peace.”

No End of Ideas

With a never ending list of things she likes to make, Reily foresees that she will be creating beadwork “forever.”  And that is a path she makes a choice to walk. It is part of her belief system, one that defines the steps that she takes:

“Follow one path no matter where it leads you. This is your journey in life. You have been down it before, and you have a chance to find yourself.”

It’s the choices we make that shape who we are.

Wenaha GalleryTamara Reily is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from January 18, 2022 through February 14.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

 

 

steptoe battlefield spokane indian wars 1858 nona hengen historical painting

Native American & Pioneer History: The Paintings of Nona Hengen

steptoe battlefield spokane indian native american wars 1858 nona hengen historical painting

Steptoe Battlefield, depicting the war between the U.S. Government and the Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, and Palouse Native American tribes, by Nona Hengen

It’s easy to forget that, for most of history, there were no cameras.

So when we see a movie of an historical event, or an illustration, or a painting, we rely upon the artist’s interpretation of what they thought happened, hopefully based upon scholarly historical research.

steptoe government indian native american wars historical painting nona hengen

Steptoe Meets the Coeur d’Alene, historical painting of the U.S. Government and Native American conflict, by Nona Hengene

“There are no photographs, no ‘cast of thousands’ to help establish placement, maneuvering, long shots, medium shots or close-ups for cameras,” says artist and historian Nona Hengen, who has spent 30 years researching, and painting, the “Indian Wars” of the Inland Northwest. One of Hengen’s focus has been the Steptoe Battles of 1858, in which government troops led by Colonel Edward Steptoe were routed and defeated by the Spokane, Couer d’Alene and Palouse tribes.

On the eve of the Civil War, this battle, also known as The Battle of Pine Creek, set into motion events that led eventually to the extermination of the Native Americans’ traditional way of life. And because this happened in the region where Hengen presently lives, she has studied it, spoken on it, and painted it extensively. It’s what she does: she brings history to visual life, whether that history is the war between the Native Americans and the U.S. government, the life of the pioneers and immigrants in the region, or even carousel horses.

History and the Present

horse buggy nostalgic history vintage painting nona hengen

Don’t Sell the Horses Yet, Bob! Vintage nostalgia, capturing early 20th century pioneer life, by Nona Hengen

“The subject matter of her realistic canvases are the houses, the barns, the tractors, the horses, hills, and fields of the Palouse country,” wrote Dr. W. Robert Lawyer, director of libraries at Western Washington University, in an introduction to a showing of Hengen’s works in Bellingham.

“Her deep attachment to the land and to country  life, coupled with her fine powers of observation, find expression in genuine recreations infused with the life, the strength, the vigor, the loneliness, and the vastness of life in the country.”

Hengen, who at 10 years old wrote to her uncle that she planned to be an artist, took the long way round, earning her PhD in education and history, then teaching at universities, because there were no art schools in the area. When her mother became ill, she returned to the 1904 family homestead in Spangle, later settling in permanently and picking up the dream she had set aside 23 years before.

carousel odyssey vintage nostalgia horses nona hengen poster

Carousel Odyssey, an exploration of a different kind of history, by Nona Hengen

She began writing and illustrating for numerous magazines — Cats and Kittens, Dog and Kennel, Bird Times, Wheat Life — and authored 16 books on life in the Palouse region. Her artwork appeared on cards from Leanin’ Tree, as puzzles from Sunsout, and on the front page of the 1998 Voters Pamphlet. National Geographic has contacted her, seeking permission to include paintings from her historical series in two recent publications.

Preserving the Barn, and History

In 2014, Hengen applied for, and received, a grant to restore the homestead’s historic barn, which now houses a generous selection of her many, many paintings. By appointment, she shepherds interested groups through the gallery, explaining the rich and diverse history of the area, seeking to show the people of today their connection to the people of the past, whether those people were the pioneers, or the people who were here long, long before that.

To bring this life to visual life, Hengen pores over historical accounts: diaries, memoirs, letters, sketches by eyewitnesses, and then adds a dose of artistry to the research. For one of her historical works, Horse Slaughter Camp, depicting the U.S. Army’s shooting of more than 800 Indian horses in 1858, Hengen relied heavily upon the cooperation of her Quarter Horse, Sam.

“I spent numerous leisure moments on hot days observing my horse cooling himself off in a dust wallow he had made for himself in the farmyard,” Hengen explains.

horse slaughter camp history government indian native american wars nona hengen

Horse Slaughter Camp, a depiction of the U.S. Army’s shooting of 800 Native American horses by Nona Hengen. Hengen’s quarter horse, Sam, served as the principal model for this artwork.

“I would nudge him and coax him to pull himself up on his front legs, giving me opportunity, sketchbook in hand, to observe the ‘getting up’ maneuver.

“At other times, he seemed to say, ‘Really? And just what is the purpose of this unwarranted pestering and intrusion into my naptime?'” Eventually, many photos and sketches later, Hengen had the material she needed to work out a composition.

Native American and Pioneer Life

It’s a combination of history, research, reading, sketching, writing, artistry, and imagination, and the result is a body of work that invites the past into the present, encouraging people of modern day to notice not only the differences between the eras, nor the similarities as well, but the pain and the joy, the injustice and the adventure.

Such is human history: family, hard work, leisure time, hopes, dreams, disappointments, the day to day activities that comprise a lifetime, violence, peace — it can all be found in the Palouse region.

“These are the sorts of subjects that revive family memories and look back at the experiences of pioneering in the Palouse — in short, the tie to the land, and the shared bonds of a life lived in earlier times.”

Wenaha Gallery

Nona Hengen is the featured Art Event  at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, January 29, 2018, through Saturday, Saturday, March 3, 2018.  She will speaking at the gallery Saturday, March 3 at 1:30 and 3, discussing the U.S. Government/Native American conflicts of the Inland Northwest. Joining her that day will be watercolorist Roy Anderson of Walla Walla and glass artist Gregory Jones of Pasco.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

 

 

Men Die, But History Lives — The Books of Kevin Carson

The Pacific Northwest 91st Division during World War I, photo courtesy of Kevin Carson

The Pacific Northwest 91st Division during World War I, photo courtesy of Kevin Carson

It’s been called The Great War and The War to End All Wars.

Those accustomed to learning history from Hollywood movies might guess the event to be World War II, but that one is known as The Good War. Our war in question is World War I, which could understandably be called The Forgotten War if the appellation weren’t already taken by the Korean War (brought out of obscurity by the T.V. show, M*A*S*H).

The Dayton Congregational Church's World War I Service Banner honors men of the area who fought in the war. Carson's great uncle, Fred Bauer, is represented in the gold star

The Dayton Congregational Church’s World War I Service Banner honors men of the area who fought in the war.

But all wars are memorable to the people who fought in them, as well as to the survivors of those who died, military or civilians. For Kevin Carson, a former Dayton resident who researches Pacific Northwest history, World War I hits close to home.

“I have always been interested in World War I,” Carson says. “As a young person, I saw it through the eyes of my grandfather, Art Carson, who had lost his brother (Fred Carson) in the Meuse Argonne campaign.

“It was still as painful for him as it was on the day that Fred died.”

Fred’s name and memory are memorialized on a World War I Service Banner, found stuffed in the attic of the Dayton Congregational Church, and later framed for display and presentation. In all, 42 names are listed, representing those associated with just that church who were sent overseas. Many others from Dayton served as well, members of the 91st, or Wild West Division, encompassing soldiers from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Wyoming.

It is this group men upon which Carson focuses in his upcoming book, The Wild West Boys, from which he will be reading excerpts during an appearance at Wenaha Gallery over Dayton’s Alumni Weekend, July 16. At the forefront of hard fighting in France and Belgium, the 91st Division was part of the Meuse Argonne Offensive, one of the largest campaigns in military history and instrumental to bringing the war to its end. The Offensive involved 1.2 million U.S. soldiers, of which more than 26,000 died and 95,000 were wounded.

Marching to the front, World War I.

Marching to the front, World War I.

Thirteen Dayton men, Carson reports, received French memorial decorations for their part of the Offensive. All 13 men, including Carson’s great uncle, died in combat.

“I think this group of men needs to be recognized for what they did during their big push in the Meuse Argonne and then their brave dash through Flanders to liberate Belgium and flank the German Army,” Carson says.

“The mystique of these men spoke to me. I thought that perhaps I could write a historical fiction piece that has a western feel at its core, and highlights what these tough and brave soldier did.

“It seems their history is little known. I mean to change that.”

Two Scrapers from the Palouse Indians, a people who lived in the area long, long before The Great War, The Good War, or the Forgotten War. From the private collection of Kevin Carson

Two Scrapers from the Palouse Indians, a people who lived in the area long, long before The Great War, The Good War, or the Forgotten War. From the private collection of Kevin Carson

Highlighting history, and rescuing from obscurity information that remains pertinent today, is a passion with Carson, whose earlier book, History Book Club selection The Long Journey of the Nez Perce, features hand-drawn maps by the author to illustrate battles that many in the area have no idea of happening. With scrupulous attention to research and a painstaking sense of fairness, Carson looks at the “last of the Indian wars” from both sides, telling the story, according to Washington State Magazine, “with immediacy and fascinating analysis.”

The Wild West Boys, Carson explains, is also the result of extensive research and analysis, set in a fictional, yet realistic setting. Composites of actual soldiers that Carson has researched, the characters are drawn from real men with very real lives — such as the George Young cattle rustling gang that menaced Southeast Washington in the late 19th century, and the understaffed lawmen who doggedly pursued them. It was a genuine Western tale, long before John Wayne or Clint Eastwood.

In addition to reading from his book, Carson brings historical and area-based artifacts from his private collection, including World War I photographs, letters and flag, as well as Palouse Indian arrowheads, hide scrapers, a handwoven basket dating from the 1880s, and a frog effigy and paint pot from Celilo. They are all part of the history that makes up our lives today, and which he seeks to keep alive through his books.

“The themes that are interwoven through my stories have a lot to do with the importance of family, and the role of older men in helping shape young men,” Carson says. His work records the timeless story of sacrifice, love, and the limits of courage, because these are subjects that should never be forgotten.

Or, as one of his principal characters  of The Wild West Boys writes,

“I do not believe that the stories of our  lives should die with us.”

Wenaha GalleryKevin Carson is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Tuesday, July 5 through Saturday, August 6. Carson, a 1976 Dayton High School grad, will be signing books at the gallery Saturday, July 16, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. during Dayton’s Alumni Weekend. He will be reading from his new book, The Wild West Boys, at 1 p.m. Photos from World War I will be on display, the sale of which will benefit the Blue Mountain Historical Society of Dayton.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

A fossil of a fish is one of the more unusual items that framer Lael Loyd has framed at Wenaha Gallery.

When Being Framed Is a Good Thing — The Importance of the Simple (or Ornate) Frame

A fossil of a fish is one of the more unusual items that framer Lael Loyd has framed at Wenaha Gallery.

A fossil of a fish is one of the more unusual items that framer Lael Loyd has framed at Wenaha Gallery.

The beauty, and frustration, of history are the differing opinions by experts regarding what actually happened. After all, since the parties involved are long gone, it’s difficult to be precise.

So it is with the history of not only painting (with researchers propounding both Europe and Indonesia as sites with the oldest works, and dates ranging initially from 10,000 to a present consensus of 40,000 years ago), but with the frames that surround the paintings. One voice in the framing world, Church Hill Classics, asserts that frames have existed since the second century B.C., when borders were drawn around Etruscan cave paintings, while the UK’s Paul Mitchell Ltd, specializing in antique and reproduction frames, pinpoints framing’s origins to the embellishment of vase and tomb artwork around that same date . . . or a thousand years earlier.

Three dimensional items are a challenge, but not an impossibility, to frame.

Three dimensional items are a challenge, but not an impossibility, to frame.

Technicalities aside, framing artwork has been around for a long time, and as any college student with posters on the wall can attest, a formal outside border makes all the difference in whether the room feels like a dorm, or a home. It enhances, it upgrades, it protects.

“For all practical purposes, it holds the guts of the frame package together, and acts as another barrier to protect the art,” says Lael Loyd, principal framer at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, WA. “The frame is the last line of defense against the elements from the side.”

While it can be as simple as strips of barn wood (hopefully without the splinters) to the ornately crafted, gold-leaf gilded frames associated with 19th century French landscapes, the final choice, Loyd observes, strongly depends upon the artwork within.

“The frames, like the lamps, floor rugs, couches, and mirrors, should never detract from the room. We encourage each piece to be designed for what it needs, keeping in mind the environment it will live in.”

A Victorian Shadowbox incorporates items from the era.

A Victorian Shadowbox incorporates items from the era.

Like that interior furniture and decor, framing goes “in” and “out” of mode, Loyd says, explaining that the manufacturers of commercial framing keep an alert eye on the home interior market, introducing styles that are trendy without being “faddy.” Some elements, however, are like the little black dress — always perfect, and always timeless:

“Basic black, gold and silver always win . . . Browns, in a variety of tones, mahogany, black and shades of gold, silver and bronze are what I use most.”

Loyd has designed framing packages for everything from what one would expect to frame — a painting, a poster, certificates and diplomas — to the more unusual — a fossilized rock, a piece of the Torah (“No pressure there!”), a softball outfit including the ball and bat, a World War I Service Banner encased in glass on both sides. Her most challenging 3-D framing commission was her first, a Victorian shadow box that included a feather, pair of gloves, book, buttons, pocket watch, and more.

“I was terrified! I took a long time because I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I used techniques I didn’t know existed until, and in the end, it is one of my favorite designs.”

Some frames are works of art in their own right, and within the museum art world, curators are paying increased attention to this fundamental, but easily overlooked, element to the finished art package. In 2015, The National Gallery in London presented a 5-month exhibition entitled Frames in Focus: Sansovino Frames, featuring elaborately designed frames from the 16th century. It is the first in a series of exhibitions that the gallery plans on frames.

For the average person, however, what needs to be framed probably won’t be found in a museum, although this does not mean that the work doesn’t have meaning.

“I love the designs that come with a story,” Loyd says, “like a child’s refrigerator art housed in a basic frame, and the child comes in and clings to the framed piece, or the photo of a prize-winning husky, with ribbon included, and the owner brings out a Kleenex because the beloved dog has passed away and we’re now working to display a memory.

“It’s history, living history, preserved and protected for future generations.”

Wenaha GalleryFraming Extravaganza is the Pacific Northwest Art Event from Monday, March 28 through Saturday, April 23. Both ready-made frames and a select inventory of link molding (from which custom frames are made) will be deeply discounted as the gallery makes room for additional frame styles and colors.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.