Original Oscar Howe drawings displayed as USD gallery re-opens

The Oscar Howe Gallery at The University of South Dakota re-opened on Monday, Nov. 30 featuring a drawing exhibition by Oscar Howe (Yanktonai Dakota, 1915-1983), a celebrated Native American artist and former faculty member of the USD Department of Art.

 

The drawings in the exhibition showcase Howe's wide-ranging talent to draw uninhibited lines freely. These lines convey movement and energy, and tell stories of Dakota culture. Some of the drawings are abstract linear compositions while others are preliminary sketches for future casein paintings on paper such as the drawing of internationally recognized potter Maria Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo, 1881-1980).

 

"The drawings in the exhibition give the viewer a real sense of Oscar's skill and creativity with graphite pencils and paper," said Eddie Welch, director of the University Art Galleries and curator of the exhibition. "Drawing, making lines – first in the prairie dirt with sticks as a young boy and later as a professional artist – was the core of art-making for Howe."

 

All but one of the drawings is on public display for the first time, including "Dakota Duck Hunt," the sketch for the painting by the same title for which Howe won the grand prize at the second-annual Philbrook Art Competition in Tulsa, OK, in 1947. "This drawing has incredible historical value given Oscar used his prize money to fly his soon-to-be wife, Heidi, to the United States from Germany after the war," Welch said. The drawing recently received art conservation treatment from the Midwest Art Conservation Center in Minneapolis, Minn.

 

While the Howe Gallery was closed for three weeks, Welch organized the gallery by painting the walls and rearranging exhibits to give the location a new look. Also during this time, Welch and Sarah Hanson, curator of photographs, worked to digitally photograph Howe's paintings and drawings in the USD collection.

 

"The digital documentation of Howe's paintings and drawings in the USD collection is a significant development toward advancing future research on Howe, and to better promote the university's collection which is the largest in the world," stated Welch.

 

Located on the first floor of the east wing of Old Main, the Oscar Howe Gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. Special off-hours tours are also available by contacting Welch at eddie.welch@usd.edu or (605) 677-3177.

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