Wendy Red Star Brings Good Horses

Sargent’s Daughters

Wendy Red Star, No Good Dirt Plateau (Wild Horse Ridge), 2021, acrylic, graphite, kitakata paper, marble paper, 111 1/2 × 183 1/2″.

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Sargent’s Daughters presents “Brings Good Horses,” a solo exhibition of new work by Apsáalooke (Crow) artist Wendy Red Star. The exhibition presents three installation drawings of horses, comprising thirty original drawings, sketched from historical ledger drawings and mounted on marbleized paper to form a large grid. A procession of horse drawings leads to the back of the gallery, headed by a drawing of Red Star herself and her ancestor, Green Skin, a holder of “horse getting” medicine bundle which gave him extraordinary skills to take horses from enemies. This feat, also known as “going on a raid,” required unflinching courage and willingness to risk death, but brought honor, wealth, and greater sustainability for the Tribal Nation.

In “Brings Good Horses,” Red Star references the enduring importance of the horse to Plains Tribal Nations since their introduction in the mid-1700s. Plains Indian warriors measured wealth, status and courage in the capture of horses from competing tribes. Taking these horses was considered a rite of passage, and successful warriors were memorialized on buffalo hides. This pictorial tradition was crucial to the later “ledger drawings.” Ledger drawings continued the tradition of depicting major events in the lives of the Plains people—hunting, fighting and war. 

This legacy inspired Red Star to employ her own mode of “horse getting” by sketching the horses from historical ledger drawings and requisitioning them for her own work, and perhaps freeing them from long captivity and obscurity in institutions that appropriated them. She notes the Tribal affiliation of each horse she took for her new herd, giving tribute to the original artist and source. In this way Red Star asserts her place of honor as a horse getter in the continuing tradition of Apsáalooke warriors and artists, connecting a vibrant tradition to an ongoing pursuit of history and identity.

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