Dyani White Hawk

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Dyani White Hawk (full name Dyani White Hawk Polk) (born 1976) is a contemporary artist and curator of Sicangu Lakota, German, and Welsh ancestry.[1] From 2010 to 2015, White Hawk was a curator for the Minneapolis gallery All My Relations.[2] As an artist, White Hawk's work aesthetic is characterized by a combination of modern abstract painting and traditional Lakota art.

White Hawk's work has been featured in group exhibitions at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the Universita Ca Foscari in Venice, Italy, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, and the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe.

Early life and education[edit]

White Hawk was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. Her mother was adopted from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota to non-Native Wisconsin parents, and as a young child in Wisconsin, the artist had very little connection to her Rosebud family. It wasn't until she was a teen that she began learning about her Lakota ancestry and grappling with issues of heritage and identity. According to White Hawk "my life experiences have been a continual negotiation of both Western and Indigenous educations, value systems, and worldviews."[3]

White Hawk received her first undergraduate degree in 2003 from Haskell Indian Nations University. In 2008, she earned a BFA in 2-D Studio Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), and in 2011 she graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with an MFA in Studio Arts.[4]

White Hawk credits her mother with encouraging her artistic talent at a young age, but the artist's first painting was completed as part of her IAIA admission portfolio. Her early artwork tends to borrow influence from popular culture and street art. White Hawk cites later influences ranging from abstract modernists such as Mark Rothko and Marsden Hartley, to Native history traditional tribal art forms. Although she tends to favor artistic traditions specific to her Lakota tribe, White Hawk has also found influence in other Native artistic traditions, such as Navajo weaving.[5]


White Hawk is known for her easel-sized paintings that depict abstract compositions emphasizing saturated colors arranged in symmetrical and asymmetrical patterns. She often privileges patterns and lines that replicate quillwork, beadwork, and textiles. In the painting Seeing (2010), for instance, the square canvas is divided into nine smaller squares to create a gridded composition. But the grid yields to deep blue sky peppered with cumulus clouds that appear to recede into the distance; this interruption to the grid is also contained by it, as the sky occupies the central cruciform shape of the composition. Appearing to overlap this firmament are four beige-and-blue striped squares that anchor the painting in each corner.[6]

Primarily through abstraction, White Hawk examines the relationship of traditional art making in Native American communities to more contemporary practices. Often, her work comments on the problematic minimizing of Native artists versus the recognition given to Western artists who take influence from Native art forms.[7] Moccasin toes, ledger drawings, blanket designs, porcupine quills, teepee forms and other Native American motifs often comprise the subjects of White Hawk's exacting oil paintings.[8]

Though thoroughly modern/contemporary in the expression of her ideas and themes, White Hawk, both as a curator and as an artist, explores her cultural heritage. She writes: "As a woman of Sicangu Lakota and European ancestry, raised among Native communities within urban American environments, my work is an investigation of communal and personal definitions. It is a journey into understanding the history of this land and our relationships with and within it."[9] Dyani White Hawk has exhibited work at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, and the Indian Arts and Culture Museum. Her work has been collected by the Akta Lakota Museum, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Wisconsin Union Art Collection, and the Robert Penn Collection of Contemporary Northern Plains Indian Art of the University of South Dakota.[10]

White Hawk's work has been featured in group exhibitions at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the Universita Ca Foscari in Venice, Italy, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, and the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe.[11] White Hawk is currently represented by Shiprock Santa Fe and Bockley Gallery.[12]

Dyani White Hawk's painting earned the "Best of Classification" award at the 2011 Santa Fe Indian Art Market and a First Place in painting at the 2011 Northern Plains Indian Art Market. She was a SWAIA discovery fellowship recipient in 2012.[13] In 2013, White Hawk was the recipient of the McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship.[14] White Hawk was awarded the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant in 2014.[15] In 2015, the artist was awarded a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Regional Artist Fellowship.[16]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 2016 - Storied Abstraction, Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis, MN.
  • 2015 - Dyani White Hawk, Shiprock Santa Fe Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.
  • 2014 - Into the Light: Paintings and Prints by Dyani White Hawk, Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis, MN.
  • 2013 - An Exhibition of Works by Dyani White Hawk, Gallery 110, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD.
  • 2012 - Dyani White Hawk, Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis, MN.
  • 2011 - Inseparable, Art Lofts Gallery, Madison, WI.


  1. ^ "Dyani White Hawk - Native Arts and Cultures Foundation". Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  2. ^ "Ace gallery director Dyani White Hawk Polk resigns AMRG post". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  3. ^ "Dyani White Hawk - Cowboys and Indians Magazine". Cowboys and Indians Magazine. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  4. ^ "Dyani White Hawk". Elmhurst Art Museum. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  5. ^ White Hawk Polk, Dyani (April 24, 2014). "Dyani White Hawk Polk Interview". Native Report (Interview). Interviewed by Stacey Thunder. Duluth: WDSE/WRPT PBS.
  6. ^ "Painting - dyani white hawk".
  7. ^ Hopkins, Candice. "Dyani White Hawk." McKnight Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists, 2014-2015.
  8. ^ "Last picture show for McKnight Foundation". startribune.com. Star Tribune. January 16, 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  9. ^ Leaken, text by Suzanne Deats ; principal photography by Kitty; Leaken, Kitty (2012). Contemporary Native American artists (First edition. ed.). Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 1423605594.
  10. ^ "Bockley Gallery :: Artists :: Dyani White Hawk". bockleygallery.com. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  11. ^ "Dyani White Hawk". Elmhurst Art Museum. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  12. ^ "Dyani White Hawk - Cowboys and Indians Magazine". Cowboys and Indians Magazine. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  13. ^ "Swaia - Indian Market: About SWAIA/SWAIA Fellowships/2012 SWAIA Fellowship Recipients". swaia.org. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  14. ^ "Last picture show for McKnight Foundation". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  15. ^ Foundation, Joan Mitchell. "Joan Mitchell Foundation » News & Events » Joan Mitchell Foundation announces the 2014 Painters & Sculptors Grant Recipients". joanmitchellfoundation.org. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  16. ^ "Realizing the Potential of Creative Vision". Native Arts and Culture Organization. Retrieved 5 March 2016.