The Drawing I Can’t Stop Thinking About …

26-ledger-drawing.nocrop.w710.h2147483647Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine:

A great work of art from 1875 never seen in any museum, almost never seen at all, and all but lost to history, sat radioactive on the wall of a small gallery at the recent Frieze New York art fair. A simple depiction in prismatic hues — pencil and lustrous color — somehow expressed a thousand anxieties, lost freedom, emotions secreted away, omens of anger, empty worlds, tears, and the life of a captive. We see a canary yellow locomotive pulling a decorated red coal car and an invisible payload moving in an 1875 landscape of fields of corn, front yards, wooden fences, towns, buildings, and tracks, all running through the back of America’s memory. This is the end of the journey of 72 Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa prisoners of war found guilty without trial and all taken south and east away from their native lands of eastern Colorado, western Kansas, northern New Mexico, Oklahoma, and the Texas panhandle. Removed from a region that once teemed with herds of wild horses and bison and the traditional Plains way of life, they were piled on horse carts, ships, and train and brought to a prison camp at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida.

The artist is Bear’s Heart, one of the 72 prisoners on that fateful forgotten train. Once the captives reached Fort Marion they were subjected to rigorous military discipline and forced labor. However, to please visiting tourists the prisoners were also encouraged to draw. Thus, like prisoners everywhere, these artists found coded ways to depict their captivity.

more here.