Merlin Little Thunder

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Merlin Little Thunder
Born1956
Clinton, Oklahoma, United States
NationalitySouthern Cheyenne
EducationSouthwestern Oklahoma State College, Bacone College, Eastern Oklahoma State College
Alma materCanton High School

Merlin Little Thunder is a Southern Cheyenne artist living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His paintings express the history, people and the land in a narrative, representational style, especially from the perspective of the Southern Cheyenne people.[1] He is well known for his miniature paintings, bright colors, and for the incorporation of humor into his work.[2]

After graduating from high school in Canton, Oklahoma, Merlin attended several colleges and universities to major in other subjects, yet he continued to learn art on the side. The young man married before graduating with a degree, quit college and began working in a factory. His father opposed his desire to become a full-time artist because he feared his soon would be unable to support himself, let alone a family. But by 1981, Merlin and his wife had divorced, and Merlin moved to Tulsa, where he became more deeply involved in his art.

Early life[edit]

Born in Clinton, OK at the Clinton Indian Hospital,[3] Little Thunder was raised in the town of Canton, Oklahoma, in the Southern Cheyenne community of Fonda. His great-grandfather, Frank Old Bear, performed with the Miller 101 Ranch Wild West Show. His uncle, Raymond Williams, was an amateur artist who could look at something once and then reproduce it but never turned his talent into a career.[4] Little Thunder described growing up in Canton as "an Indian kid's paradise."[5]

Education[edit]

Little Thunder's parents were George and Connie Little Thunder.[6] Merlin went to Longdale Elementary and then moved to Okmulgee, OK and went to Lee School while his father, George, attended Okmulgee Tech on the GI Bill. After his father finished school the family eventually moved to Enid, OK and Little Thunder attended Adams and then Harrison Elementary. Eventually his family moved back to Canton and Little Thunder returned to Longdale through the eighth grade and then graduated from Canton High School in 1975.[7] After graduation from high school, Little Thunder began taking classes at Southwestern Oklahoma State College (SWOSU) in 1975, while majoring in pre-pharmacy.[8] Little Thunder transferred to Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1976 because he wanted a smaller setting, still majoring in pre-pharmacy. When he transferred to Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton, Oklahoma, he changed his major to art. He left college in 1980 for factory work.[9] Later Little Thunder moved to Tulsa and met Jim Hewlett, a collector of Indian art, who bought drawings and paintings from Little Thunder and gave him space to work.[10]

Little Thunder indicates that demand for his artwork became so strong that he gave up factory work and became a full-time artist about 1981. He met the owner of an Oklahoma art gallery, Julie Pearson, whom he soon married.

Collections[edit]

Little Thunder is best known for his miniature work. These are finely detailed, though they are physically tiny, as small as 1¼ by 2½ inches.[11] He describes his art as coming from a spiritual experience which spurred his drawing and focuses on Cheyenne subject matter painted largely from memory.[12] Humor is very important in Little Thunder's work and likes his work to "poke fun at history."[13] Little Thunder is known for landscapes with 19th century Cheyenne subjects.[14] He is also known for medicine paintings which he describes as more spiritual in nature and without artistic limitations. He has developed a reputation for his 1950s period work inspired by his great grandfather’s experiences riding in cattle drives and performing with the 101 Ranch show.[15] Little Thunder's artwork can be seen in the collections of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the Museum of the American Indian.[16]

Famous Artworks[edit]

The following is a list of a few of Little Thunder's famous works of art:

  • "Tornado warning at 3 a.m." depicts his grandmother, Daisy Little Thunder, and her family rushing into a cellar to escape a tornado[17]
  • "Keeping an eye on the defense secretary" which depicts a humorous, fictional event inspired by press reports of Defense Secretary Nominee John Tower’s drinking problem. Three Indian scouts are watching a man floating downriver in canoe with a brown jug[18]
  • "A pillory can out preach a parson" 1990 features a Cheyenne man and a Huichol Indian man who have been put into the stocks for drinking[19]
  • "The Time Queen Ann Got Ditched Around Hog Creek" depicting two Indians intently discussing a Queen Anne chest of drawers.[20]

Awards[edit]

Little Thunder has won numerous First Places in miniature and in water-based painting at the Trail of Tears Art Show and at Santa Fe Indian Market. He was awarded the Moscelyn Larkin Cultural Award from the Tulsa Commission on Indian Affairs in 2010.[21] He has shown with the Tulsa Indian Art Festival since the 1990s.[22] and was named Honored One at the 2015 Red Earth Indian Arts Festival.[23]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Foley, Hugh. "Merlin Little Thunder talks about his art/Tulsa Indian Art Festival 2013". YouTube. KRSC-FM, Rogers State College. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Merlin Little Thunder to exhibit at The Jacobson House". Native American Times. 1 April 2003. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  3. ^ Pearson-Little Thunder, Julie. "Oral history interview with Merlin Little Thunder". Spotlighting Oklahoma Oral History Project. Oklahoma Oral History Research Project. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  4. ^ Pearson-Little Thunder, Julie. "Oral history interview with Merlin Little Thunder". Spotlighting Oklahoma Oral History Project. Oklahoma Oral History Research Project. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Merlin Little Thunder to exhibit at The Jacobson House" (3A). Native American Times. 1 April 2003. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  6. ^ "Merlin Little Thunder:Southern Cheyenne Artist." Accessed August 19, 2018.
  7. ^ Pearson-Little Thunder, Julie. "Oral history interview with Merlin Little Thunder". Spotlighting Oklahoma Oral History Project. Oklahoma Oral History Research Project. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  8. ^ McDonnell, Brandy (22 April 2007). "Attention to details distinguishes artist Merlin Little Thunder's miniature paintings convey Indian humor, spirituality". NewsOK. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  9. ^ McDonnell, Brandy (22 April 2007). "Attention to details distinguishes artist Merlin Little Thunder's miniature paintings convey Indian humor, spirituality". NewsOK. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  10. ^ Pearson-Little Thunder, Julie. "Oral history interview with Merlin Little Thunder". Spotlighting Oklahoma Oral History Project. Oklahoma Oral History Research Project. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  11. ^ McDonnell, Brandy (22 April 2007). "Attention to details distinguishes artist Merlin Little Thunder's miniature paintings convey Indian humor, spirituality". NewsOK. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  12. ^ Pearson-Little Thunder, Julie. "Oral history interview with Merlin Little Thunder". Spotlighting Oklahoma Oral History Project. Oklahoma Oral History Research Project. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  13. ^ Devlin, Jeanne M. (1990). "The New Masters: Oklahoma Indian Painters and Sculptors of Note" (PDF). Oklahoma Today. 40 (6): 35.
  14. ^ McDonnell, Brandy (22 April 2007). "Attention to details distinguishes artist Merlin Little Thunder's miniature paintings convey Indian humor, spirituality". NewsOK. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  15. ^ Pearson-Little Thunder, Julie. "Oral history interview with Merlin Little Thunder". Spotlighting Oklahoma Oral History Project. Oklahoma Oral History Research Project. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  16. ^ McDonnell, Brandy (22 April 2007). "Attention to details distinguishes artist Merlin Little Thunder's miniature paintings convey Indian humor, spirituality". NewsOK. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  17. ^ Pearson, Julie (1993). "Across the Range: Riding the Tornado in which an Old Man, a Young Girl, and a New Bride Meet Mother Nature Face to Face" (PDF). Oklahoma Today. 43 (3): 19–23. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  18. ^ Devlin, Jeanne M. (1990). "The New Masters: Oklahoma Indian Painters and Sculptors of Note" (PDF). Oklahoma Today. 40 (6): 35.
  19. ^ Devlin, Jeanne M. (1990). "The New Masters: Oklahoma Indian Painters and Sculptors of Note" (PDF). Oklahoma Today. 40 (6): 35.
  20. ^ "Merlin Little Thunder to exhibit at The Jacobson House" (3A). Native American Times. 1 April 2003. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  21. ^ Little Thunder, Merlin. "Visual Art Awards". Merlin Little Thunder. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  22. ^ Foley, Hugh. "Merlin Little Thunder talks about his art/Tulsa Indian Art Festival 2013". YouTube. KRSC-FM, Rogers State University, Claremore/Tulsa, OK. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  23. ^ Little Thunder, Merlin. "Visual Art Awards". Merlin Little Thunder. Retrieved 26 May 2015.

External links[edit]