Dive deeper into the country’s visual history through photographer Alexander Gardner’s 1868 images of the Fort Laramie Treaty.
Alexander Gardner’s photographs of President Abraham Lincoln and Civil War battlefield scenes had already made him famous when the federal government commissioned him to photograph treaty talks between peace commissioners led by his friend Gen. William T. Sherman and the Northern Plains tribes. On that assignment, the Scottish immigrant, who had moved to the U.S. in 1856 and begun to work with famed photographer Mathew Brady soon after, rode even deeper into the country’s visual history when he boarded the transcontinental railroad in April 1868 for Fort Laramie in Wyoming.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Fort Laramie Treaty, the Brinton Museum in Big Horn, Wyoming, is presenting a singular exhibition of Gardner’s Fort Laramie photographs from its historic Western photograph collection.
The prints — made from 9- and 12-inch glass-plate negatives — are rare, explains photo historian and exhibition curator Keith F. Davis, senior curator of photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. “Gardner spent several weeks photographing major Indian tribal leaders of the Lakota tribes and their Cheyenne and Arapaho allies. The photos are historical and of artistic significance. It will be special to have them on the wall.”
They also have personal resonance for descendants of individuals in the photos. Author and historian Donovin Sprague (Miniconjou Lakota), a family descendent of chiefs Hump and Touch the Clouds, says Gardner’s photos are treasured among his tribe: “Family members love those photos because they are the only depictions we have of these ancestors. There is the photograph of One Horn sitting by the Missouri River. He signed the treaty and was like a brother to Hump.”
The Fort Laramie photographs show Gardner’s “wonderful eye,” Davis says. “There’s a haunting shadow depth, and a sense of those physical presences, almost ghostly.” Considered among the photographer’s most poignant work, the treaty images offer moving proof of what Davis calls “the most American of 19th-century photographers with a unique American soul.”
As for the outcome of the historic event they capture, the Fort Laramie Peace Treaty was signed on April 29, 1868, and authorized with additional signatures on May 25. In the ensuing decades, conflicts over hunting rights and land ownership and the discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874 would all but dismantle it. — Judith Wilmot
The 150th Anniversary — Treaty of Fort Laramie is on view through November 9, 2018, at The Brinton Museum, in Big Horn, Wyoming. thebrintonmuseum.org.
MORE ART EXHIBITIONS
September 12 – October 27
National Crafts & Cowboy Festival
More than 250 resident and visiting craftsmen ply their artistic trades at this festival. New this year during September: a Native American village with artisans demonstrating such crafts as flint knapping and flute making. Also new are special ticketed dinner and meet-and-greet events with Western actor and watercolorist Buck Taylor and chuck wagon chef Kent Rollins, Fridays in October. Don’t miss the final season of the Wild West Show, featuring world-champion Native American hoop dancer Nakotah LaRance. Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri, 800.831.4386, silverdollarcity.com
September 21 – 30
Escalante Canyons Art Festival
This weeklong celebration includes a plein air competition and sale, art exhibition, speaker series, workshops, a nocturnal paint-out, and the Scenic Highway 12 Paint-Out (proceeds benefit the Scenic Byway 12 Foundation). Festivities also include the Wild & Scenic mini film festival and an exhibition of historic and contemporary quilts. Various locations, Escalante, Utah, 435.616.1075, escalantecanyonsartfestival.org
October 6 – 8
Abiquiú Studio Tour
More than 60 local artists open their homes and studios for the 25th annual studio tour of the village of Abiquiú, New Mexico, and the Chama River Valley — a landscape of mountains, rock formations, and the rivers of the Piedra Lumbre basin that was a great source of inspiration to Georgia O’Keeffe when she lived and painted there. Included in the self-guided driving tour are potters, painters, jewelers, fiber artists, and woodworkers. Various venues, Abiquiú, New Mexico, 505.257.0866, abiquiustudiotour.org
Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an official holiday honoring the original inhabitants of the Americas. To commemorate it, you can immerse yourself in this multifaceted celebration of the creativity of different Native American cultures. Experience traditional Native crafts such as bentwood boxes, button blankets, and whale dolls; storytelling; a discussion panel on contemporary Native issues; and Native American music and performances. Mitchell Museum of the American Indian and various venues, Evanston, Illinois, 847.475.1030, mitchellmuseum.org
October 17 – 21
The first international art fair in Music City brings together more than 70 regional, national, and international art galleries for the inaugural edition of the annual event. Thirty exhibition spaces will showcase contemporary, emerging, and modern artists. A five-booth pavilion named for Music Row will feature musical artists turned fine artists. Another five-booth pavilion, Printers Alley, will feature printed works and multiples curated by Daniel Lonow from Hatch Show Print. Recreation Field #1, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, 212.858.0068, art-nashville.com susangrantlewin.com
October 27, 2018 – April 30, 2019
The Greater West is a super region that runs from Alaska down through the North American West to Central America. Comprising roughly 200 artworks by 75-plus artists whose work reflects an aspect of life in this geographic region, the exhibition, curated in collaboration with legendary artist Ed Rusha, makes connections among the diverse cultures and artistic practices of this vast territory. It features works by Sonia Falcone, Ana Teresa Fernández, Georgia O’Keeffe, Nicholas Galanin, Da-ka-xeen Mehner, Rufino Tamayo, Edgar Arceneaux, Andrea Zittel, and Agnes Pelton, among others. Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California, 760.322.4800, psmuseum.org