Chief Joseph series

Chief Joseph series, 1974–77. Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee), b. 1935. Acrylic, wax, and ink on canvas (27 panels of a 36-panel series). Museum purchase, 2005 (26/5366).

These paintings serve as an elegy for the late 19th-century Nez Perce chief, who resisted the removal of his band from Oregon’s Wallowa Valley to a distant reservation. WalkingStick worked out all possible configurations of two small and two large arcs, then incised the archetypal forms into a thickly applied surface of acrylic paint and wax, revealing the color-stained canvas below in a kind of ritual act of mourning for the loss of home, land, and lives.

Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935) holds a BFA from Beaver College in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and a MFA from the Pratt Institute. While she works primarily in oils, she is well known for her mixed-media landscape diptychs. Her work has been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Museum of Canada, Heard Museum, Southern Plains Indian Museum, Israel Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Gilcrease Museum, and the Cherokee Heritage Center, among other institutions.

WalkingStick served as a professor of art at Cornell University from 1988 to 2005. She currently lives in New York.

Vantage Point: The Contemporary Native Art Collection

The National Museum of the American Indian
NMAI on the National Mall | Washington, DC