WHAT IS LEDGER ART?

Native American Art - - GUIDE TO MARKET -

Ledger art, which has roots back to paint­ings on the sides of teepees and Win­ter Counts, had its jump­start in the 1860s when “In­dian agents hoarded the fine pa­per and sub­sti­tuted it with used ledgers,” says Stephen Fox, owner of New Mil­len­nium Fine Art, in Santa Fe, New Mex­ico. About 10 years later, the largest im­pe­tus for mod­ern ledger art hap­pened “from the Fort Mar­ion ledger artists, af­ter Ok­la­homa and Texas tribal lead­ers were locked up in a prison in St. Au­gus­tine, Florida.” To pass the time and re­mem­ber their vil­lages they would cre­ate art­work.

Ac­cord­ing to Fox, ledger art nearly died out from 1900 to 1975, but it was al­most sin­gle­hand­edly re­vived by Spokane artist Ge­orge Flett. To­day, ledger art is var­ied with some artists fo­cus­ing on the his­tor­i­cal themes and oth­ers cre­at­ing con­tem­po­rary nar­ra­tives.

Fox adds that when col­lect­ing ledger art to look for pieces that re­flect Na­tive his­tory and have a strong cul­tural state­ment as well as works that aren’t just on ledgers but on non-na­tive stock cer­tifi­cates, Civil War doc­u­ments, old maps, sheet mu­sic, old checks and re­ceipts. He says also to seek out work that tells a story and to ask the artists about their con­nec­tion to the Fort Mar­ion artists as some are di­rect descen­dants.

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