The Ledger Drawings of Dwayne Wilcox

Dwayne Wilcox

The first book to feature Dwayne Wilcox's incredible ledger drawings of Native life.
Date Published :
August 2021
Publisher :
George F Thompson Publishing
Editor :
Karen Miller Nearburg
Illustration :
53 color ledger drawings and 6–10 historic illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781938086847
Pages : 136
Dimensions : 9 X 11 inches
Stock Status : In stock


The first book to feature Dwayne Wilcox's incredible ledger drawings of Native life.


Plains Indian ledger art grew out of the Native tradition of recording and chronicling through art important exploits by warriors and chiefs, among them images of war and hunting, that would adorn tipis and animal hides. These were seen as historical markers. But Native life on the Great Plains underwent tremendous change following the American Civil War, when the American conquest of the West was in full gear. In just a few decades, access to the hides of diminishing herds of bison, deer, antelope, and elk became more difficult and eventually impossible with reservation life. Native people creatively turned to the easily available ledger books of settlers, traders, and military men as their new canvases.

The ledger art drawings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are revered today for their depiction of Native life during the difficult transition to life on the reservation. The ledger drawings thus became a singularly important way for Native artists to preserve tribal history and to serve as a new kind of personal socio-political expression.

Dwayne Wilcox, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation and is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, became interested in ledger art at an early age. He was influenced by the work of Lakota ledger artists such as Amos Bad Heart Bull (1869-1913), but he always sought to defy stereotypical notions of Native life and history and create his own artistic vision. Dwayne eventually focused on humor as his way to comment on the objectification of Native Americans. Skilled as an artist beyond measure, Dwayne’s ledger art drawings win major prizes and are sought by museums and collectors who see in him a true artist.

Visual/Language is Dwayne’s first book, and it was created as a collaborative effort with curator Karen Miller Nearburg, who provides an enlightening introduction to his work. This book will surely penetrate the heart and soul and mind of all who read it.

About The Author

Dwayne Wilcox was born in Kadoka, South Dakota, grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. He has been a full-time artist since 1987 but a life-long producer of art. Wilcox’s work has been widely exhibited and is in the collections of institutions throughout the United States, including the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the American Indian, Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, Peabody Museum at Harvard University, Museum of Nebraska Art, Charles M. Russell Museum, and National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. His drawings have received numerous awards from the Santa Fe Indian Market, Heard Museum’s Indian Art Market, and South Dakota Governor’s Award in the Art for Distinction in Creative Achievement, and he has received a Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship and a Bush Artist Fellowship. He resides in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Karen Miller Nearburg was born in Hanover, New Hampshire. She earned her B.A. in fine arts and child development from Tufts University, her Ed.M. from Harvard University, and her M.A. in art history from the University of Maryland, College Park. Karen spent 15 years in Alaska and wrote her M.A. thesis on the work of contemporary Inupiat sculptor Susie Qimmiqsak Bevins. Since then, she has worked in museums and galleries and was Assistant Curator at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College, where she curated Contemporary Native American Ledger Art: Drawing on Tradition (2010), and coordinated Native American Ledger Drawings from the Hood Museum of Art: The Mark Lansburgh Collection (2010), as well as Native American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art (2011–2012). In 2019, she also curated Dwayne Wilcox: Visual/Language at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, among other exhibitions. She resides in Dallas, Texas.


VISUAL/LANGUAGE is not only a superlative production of bookmaking but uniquely so. It can’t be compared to any other book that I know. The author’s artistic caricatures and commentaries are truly great, but the design of the book and the materials used to fulfill it surpass even the contents in aesthetic imagination. You have produced a masterpiece.”

- Anders Richter, former Director of the Smithsonian Institution Press

“Dwayne Wilcox is a master artist who captures instances of everyday Native American life in iconic ledger-style drawings. In this amazing collection, Wilcox draws us into his version of the local Lakota boy who leaves home to see the world, then as an adult comes back and regales us with compelling artworks and stories about the breadth of human experiences such as childhood games, adolescent loves, exciting adventures, tragic losses, and disturbing dysfunctions. These common themes are strikingly presented in his unique drawing style, yet what makes Visual/Language a lasting treasure are the personal commentaries he writes to accompany each piece. Reading them is like listening to Wilcox tell stories while sitting on the patio chairs in the side yard of his home. They are his authentic voice, and by sharing them he generously invites us into the always complicated and often humorous world of today’s American Indians.”

- Dr. Craig Howe, Director of CAIRNS, the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies

“Like William Hogarth or Bill Mauldin, Dwayne Wilcox depicts personal experience in ways that broaden and reshape our understanding of the world we share. That Wilcox is Lakota means everything and nothing. Funny, poignant, or pointed, his ledger drawings invite us to enter his life and consider the challenges, appreciate the humor, and respect the enduring presence of Lakota people in twenty-first-century America.”

- George Miles, William Robertson Coe Curator of the Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

“Dwayne Wilcox’s ledger drawings are compelling, beautifully executed, and laugh-out-loud humorous in the way they poke fun at both white and Native cultures. Beneath the initial layer of an amusing story, however, is a complex world drawn from personal experience and his Lakota culture’s deep history. In Visual/Language, Wilcox provides a resolved, well-rounded narrative that has much to say about life in today’s Native world.”

- Stephen Glueckert, Senior Curator Emeritus, Missoula Art Museum

“Wilcox’s masterful storytelling and humility are a generous offering to all. Any reader of Visual/Language will have the opportunity to be reminded of the value of all living things within this work while laughing hard and at times crying equally as hard. I am grateful to have been introduced to Wilcox and his work many years ago. Through it he has continually reminded me of what around us is truly worthy of valuing. This book and the work within it should be shared with people from all walks of life.”

- John Willis, author of Views from the Reservation and Mni Wiconi/Water Is Life

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