I remember learning about Rembrandt and Picasso in high school. They were revered as the sort of artists we should aspire to be. I didn't learn about a single Indigenous artist. This month I want to share some of the Native artists I've learned about this year. While I am Choctaw, the artists featured in this limited series will include Indigenous groups from all over the land that we now call the U.S.
So let's get to know Edmonia Lewis. She is probably best known for her 1864 bust of Colonel Robert Shaw. Col. Shaw who died leading the all-Black 54th Massachusetts Regiment.
Her mother was Chippewa and her father was a freed Black man. Sadly, she lost her parents and was orphaned at a very young age. Her brother was an incredible supporter of her education and career. He go her through primary school and college.
What resonated with me while learning about her was that she was accused of poisoning her white roommates. This led to her expulsion. My initial thought was that either she was falsely accuse or scapegoated like Emmett Till. Also like Till, she was beaten by a white mob. Thankfully she survived and went on to become the very first Indigenous and the first Black sculptor who was internationally recognized.