Much of the content in Native American artwork revolves around traditionally Native American themes. Ties to the land and a oneness with nature are apparent in the paintings and illustrations of many Native American artists. Circles, feathers, and tradtitional costumes also appear frequently.
Paintings such as Rhonda Angel's "Vision" (shown at right) portray the pride and strength of Native Americans. Her other artwork illustrates the same themes of pride, strength, and spirit. Like Angel, most Native American artists paint human figures, and they place their subjects in natural surroundings. It is rare, for example, to see a figure painted indoors; instead, most painters and illustrators use landscaping and other natural features to give life to their subjects.
Angel, like many other Native American artists, uses mythical elements in her works. The silouette in "Vision" seems to be calling out to a higher being and celebrating the spirits in the night. The face in the cliff can be seen as a silent omniscient spirit--a calm countenance which has seen everything and tells little.
As a whole, Native American artists strive to embody their cultural history and spiritual beliefs in their paintings. They works of art themselves often represent tribal history, legends, and beliefs. Spirituality and religion plays a large part in these canvasses; brushes cover the white surfaces with stories, and the colors give the tales meaning and life.
Native American artists often use their artwork to display their tribal pride and history. Jerome Bushyhead expresses his Cheyenne heritage in his paintings. "My paintings depict the life of the Plains Indian," he writes. "As my paintings show--life on the plains was a very hard way to live.
"You learned to respect the environment and learned to respect the animals that are part of your life. Many of these animals provided life to the Cheyenne."
Warriors, horses, vision, and freedom are repeated themes and motifs in his works.
Frank Howell's "Communion" expresses a oneness with nature and with all living things. He signifies this connection by the branches sprouting forth from the hair and chest of the figure. In the circle of life, everything is connected--not just humans and animals, but humans and plants as well.
L. David Eveningthunder, a Shoshone artist, uses his art to pay "tribue to the contemporary dancers who are keeping the traditions of our ancestors alive."
His paintings and illustrations mingle past history and heritage with current traditions. He blends memories with modern faces, creating interesting compositions with complex meanings.
Women are rare in Native American art. Most paintings and illustrations are by men, and most contain male subjects and themes. Dana Tiger, a Creek Tribe member, however, paints women with strength and courage. She tends to place her figure against a plain or nearly bare background in order to give her human subject more emphasis. She writes, "By drawing on the strength of the women of my Creek Indian ancestry, I am better able to portray the dignity and determination of contemporary women."
Although much Native American art on the World Wide Web seems to be displayed for show only, most of it can be purchased, as well. Ben Marra, a contemporary Native American photographer who uses his camera to capture images of modern powwows, has photographs posted on the Web--but they are mainly advertisements for the projects sold at his commercial site. Other artists, such as Frank Howell display their artwork without prices beside the pictures; however, they do offer a button on which interested browsers can click in order to find out about price information.