Tribal Affiliation: Cheyenne
Archie Blackowl was a Cheyenne painter from Oklahoma who played a pivotal role in mid-20th century Native American art. Born in Custer County of Oklahoma, Archie Blackowl ,whose Cheyenne name Mis Ta Moo To Va meant Flying Hawk in English, was a direct descendent of Roman Nose, the celebrated war chief of the Cheyenne whose village was destroyed by General Custer in 1867.
Blackowl studied art at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Kansas, the Chicago Art Institute, the Rockefeller Art Center and the School of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. It was while studying diesel engineering in California that he began his drawing as a hobby. As his studies progressed he found that his ‘hobby’ was progressing faster and he chose to pursue art and the portrayal of his Native culture rather than engineering. In the early 1930’s he began to paint professionally with the encouragement of Woody Crumbo, another Oklahoma artist.
Blackowl is generally considered to be one of the important Oklahoma traditional painters. Throughout his career, he was loyal to a traditional approach to Indian painting, portraying Cheyenne tradition and culture. His firsthand experiences allowed him to depict the Sun Dance, the scaffold burial, the Native American church traditions and Cheyenne family life. His paintings, generally in tempera or mixed media, depict scenes of dancers or ceremonies. Blackowl was best known for his stylized dancers adorned with traditional regalia and lack of backgrounds. Blackowl’s devotion to traditional style flat painting earned him the honor of “Living Legend,” by Ralph Oliver in 1990.
Blackowl has inspired many contemporary artists across the Midwest and southwest. His art is a legacy to which many young Native artists look to for information of tradition and technical skills. Original paintings and prints are still available. He died on September 15, 1992, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Blackowl was survived by ten children.