November is recognized nationally as American Indian History Month and in celebration the MSUN Multicultural Center is honored to receive Leland Stewart as the artist of the month. He is presenting his piece “Serenade,” (23” X 17”, water color). Stewart is an enrolled member of the Crow Nation (Whistling Water Clan and member of The High Hawk Society). He is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico (1975); however, he has been painting even before he went to college, since he was in high school (Saint Labre Indian Mission). Once in college, he started experimenting with other mediums like photograph, ceramics, and pottery; he adds: “at that time water color was the most challenging medium to me, so I decided to focus on it” and since then water color, water color gouache, and acrylics have been his preferred mediums. Steward is a seasoned artist as he has hold a variety of art related jobs in this life, like being a sampler printer in Billings, where he has spent most of his life.
As for his favorite themes to depict, he said they are a reflection of his life and the way he was raised; his inspiration takes him back to the days he spent with his grandmother attending sundances, medicine bundle ceremonies, and powwows, for example.
“Serenade,” is a colorful piece of elongated figures that portrays a courtship scene in which single men are singing and hand drumming to single women. This is a tradition that took place after powwows. Nowadays, it continues in a slightly different form as he explains “I have noticed how men in a circle sing while women stand in an immediate circle behind them singing in a higher pitch.” He adds that when it comes to courtship, it is important not to date someone from the same clan. “I always told my children to be careful who they dated. They could have dated from other clans like the Grease Mouths or the Tight Bundle, for example, but not someone from the Whistling Water Clan.” In Crow ways, the dominant clan is the grandmother’s and mother’s.
The MSUN Office of Diversity Awareness and Multicultural Programs (ODAMP) invites local and regional artists to exhibit their pieces, preferably those that have some link to multicultural themes. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (406) 265-3589.