Printmakers You Should Know: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

One of the exhibits on view at the moment at the RMAC is Beyond American Indian Modernism. Curated by our Registrar, Laureta Huit, this show features the work of American Indian artists who challenge and subvert stereotypical notions of the Native American, including the printmaker we'll be looking at today, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (1940-):

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Image courtesy of

Born at the St. Ignatius Jesuit Mission on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation in Montana, Smith is of Salish, Shoshone, and French-Cree descent, and an enrolled member of the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation. She and her sister were raised by their father, a horse trainer and trader, and her early life was financially and emotionally difficult. She was first introduced to art in public school and came to love both the visual and tactile qualities of paint, pastel, and other media. She pursued her art career while raising two sons as a single mother, completing her Associates Degree in Art at Olympic College in 1960, her B.A. in Art Education from Framingham State College in 1976, and her M.F.A. at the University of New Mexico in 1980. She began to establish herself as an artist in the 1970s, becoming both nationally and internationally renowned. 

As an artist, Smith works in a variety of media, including painting, pastel, and several different printmaking techniques. She employs an energetic, gestural style that synthesizes traditional imagery with modernist sensibilities to create a distinct aesthetic. 

Tribe Community from Survival suite, 1996, color lithograph, master printer Michael Sims. Image courtesy of

Pablo Ledger Pony, 2015, acrylic on canvas, mixed media, 60" x 80". Images courtesy of

The modernist and postmodernist nature of her work, however, is not limited to aesthetics. Through her complex visual vocabulary, Smith addresses the complexities of being an American Indian in a 20th and 21st century world, addressing history, politics, and culture in her prints, paintings, and mixed media works. 

In this piece, for example, Smith employs a wry sense of humor to confront the diseases that obliterated numerous Native populations through their interaction with white populations, coerced and otherwise, turning the epidemic of smallpox into fashionable paper dolls. Presenting this potentially fatal illness as a fashion plate, she crafts dolls for adults and children, emphasizing the devastating impact these diseases exerted on not only individual families, but entire communities.
Matching Small Pox Suits for All Indian Families After U.S. Gov't Sent Wagon Loads of Smallpox Infested Blankets to Keep Our Families Warm (from the series Paper Dolls for a Post Columbian World), 1991, watercolor pencil over photocopy on paper, 17" x 11". Image courtesy of
Smith frequently uses maps in her work, questioning arbitrary boundaries established through government jurisdictions and other protocols. The title of this particular work is based on a Gauguin painting of the same name
Where Do We Come From? oil and mixed media on canvas. Image courtesy of

Smith also confronts misconceptions and stereotypes about American Indian culture. In the collagraph Celebrate 40,000 Years of American Art in particular, Smith challenges the narrow scope of the accepted art historical canon. American art, she argues, does not begin with the arrival of European colonists, because this assumption overlooks the fact that civilizations here had already settled the continent and been making art for centuries. Rather, we should look all the way back to the crossing of Beringia if we really want to consider the origins of American art.

Celebrate 40,000 Years of American Art, 1995, collagraph, 71.5" x 47.5". Image courtesy of

Indian Men Wear Shirts and Ties, in turn, dispels the notion that American Indians are forever stuck in the picturesque 19th century, living in a timeless world unaffected by modern change and technological advances. On the contrary, she demonstrates, American Indians are just as immersed in the modern world and its culture as anyone else.
Indian Men Wear Shirts and Ties, 1997, color lithograph and pulp paper painting, 41.75" x 29.25".  Image courtesy of

Versatile and dynamic, Smith celebrates her heritage while challenging viewers to confront their own preconceived notions of American Indian art and culture. She is definitely a printmaker you should know.

Winds of Change, 1992, color lithograph, 30" x 22.5". Image courtesy of
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