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Reconstruction of important Native American portraits


On August 5, 2010, Legacy Gallery unveils my newest show depicting lifelike images of American Indian history-makers

"Mato-Tope, Four Bears - Mandan Chief" by James Ayers

In my newest show, opening August 5, 2010 at the Legacy Gallery’s Jackson, Wyoming location, I have turned my sights to enhancing the works of celebrated 19 th-century field artists and ethnographers and making their subjects come to life 200 years after they were first recorded.

In Portraits of Honor by James Ayers: Paintings of significant American Indian chieftains documented in historic writing, painting, and photography, I focus on the Native American men represented in documentary works by these important field artists:

  • Karl Bodmer
  • George Catlin
  • Charles Bird King
  • Edward J. Curtis

"Wahktageli, Gallant Warrior - Yankton Sioux Chief" by James Ayers

Why create new portraits based on these classic images?

For the artist and ethnologist of the early 1800s, precious few tools were available to capture the likenesses of the indigenous people they encountered. Written descriptions, field paintings, and staged photographic settings were often the only methods at the documentarian’s disposal.

As a researcher of historical Native American culture, I have gotten adept at gathering data from antique ledgers, hazy photogravures, and journal descriptions and turning these diverse images into the realistic paintings.

I decided to use these images as the basis for this series because of the historical significance of the subjects or their dramatic appearance. It was my challenge to take these factual representations and bring them to life with my portraits so that the viewer can feel like they get a glimpse of the men behind the historical myths.

To learn more

For more information on the show or details about the opening night gala, please visit the gallery at 75 N. Cache in Jackson or call 307-733-2353. You may also visit the Legacy Gallery website.

"Ladookea, Buffalo Bull - Grand Pawnee Warrior" by James Ayers

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