An artist puts innovative twists on a traditional Native American art form.
Drawing on Tradition: Kanza Artist Chris Pappan features 17 original works interspersed throughout the Native North American Hall and layered over cases that house displays created in the 1950s. Pappan’s drawings, prints, and paintings pay homage to the narrative art forms of the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains, including the Kaw Nation (also known as Kanza), where he is an enrolled member. Pappan co-curated the exhibition, teaming up with Field Museum staff to select objects and locations for his work within the hall.
His art is inspired by mid- to late-nineteenth-century Native American drawings, which were drawn on ledger paper. During that period, artists confined to reservations or imprisoned at U.S. Army forts had to make do with materials they had access to, sometimes layering their own work over the records kept in ledger books. Pappan’s images, drawn in pencil or painted, are a mix of abstract elements and realistic portraits that challenge popular or stereotypical representations of Native Americans. His work serves as a commentary on the problematic portrayal of Native Americans as frozen in a timeless past.