George Flett, one of the foremost Indian artists in the Northwest, lives on the Spokane Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He is also one of a growing number of artists who continue the tradition of ledger art as a historical record of their people and a way of making political statements.
His show, especially designed for Wheaton College, contained all new work. It reflected the historical development of ledger art, from traditional ledger style to contemporary collage, based on Spokane legends, history, and cultural events. Like the traditional ledgers, the ledgers in this show contained historical and ethnographic information, designed to be preserved, passed down to future Spokane generations, and, in this case, inform others about the tribe.
Contemporary ledger artists build boldly on the ledger tradition in their wide range of postmodern mixed media collages (see Berlo 61-71). George Flett, in equally bold experiments, stays closer to the ledger art tradition. What distinguishes the Wheaton College, Massachusetts, Exhibit are the vivid recoveries of his historic turn-of-the-century ancestors, the experiments in making their spiritual visions a living presence, and the new appropriations of the white man’s balance sheets.
Besides working with traditional styles of art, Flett experiments with new ways of using, not only balance sheets, but other kinds of ledgers, or material records of profit and loss--for instance Congressional Records, a power company stock certificate, a Western Union telegram, and an old Albers flour bag. He experimented with ways of representing Prairie Chicken Dancers, whose dancing he captured with great vitality, and the spirit helpers who inspired them. And in some pieces he embosses pictures of spirit helpers into the antique ledgers that form the ground for the figures of his subjects.
Past Exhibits and Awards
George Flett has had shows and won awards at prestigious galleries and venues in the West, such as: the Santa Fe Indian Market, where he won 3rd Prize and a blue ribbon in 2003; the Montana Indian Market in Billings, Colorado; The Indian Market in Boulder and Denver; the Red Cloud Indian Art Show in Pine Ridge, South Dakota; the Buffalo Bill Historical Center at Cody, Wyoming; the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona; Red Earth in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Julyamsh at Post Falls, Idaho, where he won the Distinguished Artist Award. In October 2002, he was a Distinguished American Indian Speaker at the University of Idaho, where he also showed his work, visited classrooms, and worked with students and faculty in the print studio.