Oscar Howe Art Show at USD Includes Rare Letters by Native American Artist
“Oscar Howe: A Centennial Celebration” is open daily until Oct. 16 at the John Day Gallery in the Warren Lee Center for Fine Arts at USD, where Howe taught from 1957 until 1980. The exhibit reception will be 4-6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2.
- Forty-seven Oscar Howe paintings, 30 of them owned by USD and 17 on loan from the Howe family. The paintings on display all were created during his time teaching at USD. One piece featured in the exhibition, "Calling on Wakan Tanka," the first painting USD purchased from Howe, has now recently returned from touring with the exhibition "The Plains Indians: Artist of Earth and Sky," which went to Paris, New York and Kansas City, Missouri.
- Two Howe sculptures, a wood carving and another from South Dakota alabaster. Howe is mostly known for his paintings, and many people don’t know about his sculptural work.
- Several pieces of correspondence on loan from the Library Archives and Special Collections that show Howe's role in changing Native American art standards. Howe entered a piece in the 1958 National Indian Painting Competition at the Philbrook Museum of Art, but it was rejected as not being a “traditional Indian painting.” That letter is part of the USD exhibit as is Howe’s letter of protest, a letter from the exhibit's juror in response and a letter from the Philbrook’s director. Howe’s protest letter is well known, but the other letters are not often cited and paint a larger picture to the story and change the context of Howe’s letter, which ultimately led the museum to change the rules.
"Even though the University Art Galleries at USD has two exhibitions of Howe’s work every year in the Oscar Howe Gallery in Old Main, this exhibition is truly one-of-a-kind. Moving the centennial show into our main gallery, the John Day Gallery, has allowed us to show more of his works at once, which showcases how active he was as an artist," said Michelle St. Vrain, interim director of University Art Galleries.
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