California History Center/Michael Horse - artist
Michael Horse, of Yaqui, Mescalero Apache and Zuni descent, is an award-winning artist, jeweler and actor. His works are shown in fine galleries and museums in the United States and throughout the world. He is an expert and lectures on the Native American folk art called "ledger painting", the pictorial history of Native life. Horse is also a well known actor whose credits include Twin Peaks, X-Files, Walker Texas Ranger, Passenger 57 and numerous other television series and feature length films.
Horse lives in the Bay Area and can be found on many weekends at Gathering Tribes in Albany, California, a gallery that his wife owns. Visitors may find him at his art table working on ledger paintings that will find their ways to the gallery walls. "I'm very excited to share my ledger art with the Bay Area", says Horse, "It is a fascinating art form that many people who are knowledgeable about Native art are not familiar with." Horse is also an award winning jeweler whose work ranges from traditional to contemporary. He uses only the best stones available and works in both silver and gold.
Ledger art was initially created in the mid 1800s to early 1900s during the "reservation period". It depicts scenes of Native American life including buffalo hunts, tipi villages, courting scenes and battles. Horse uses vintage watercolor and pen and ink on vintage documents from the era. He has been creating ledger paintings since the late 1970s. He became familiar with the form while working as a cultural consultant with the Heye Foundation in New York and the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles. In the museums he was shown old ledger paintings and realized that it was something he could continue to do. "It is our history from our point of view. We first painted on hide, then in the 1800s with the introduction of paper, we started to use this medium", says Horse.
Initially, when Native people were put on reservations they were not allowed to leave or to have weapons. Prior to that time history was recorded on hides and via the oral tradition. When the hides were no longer available the people started to record either what they saw around them or what life was like before the reservation. "It is actually a type of internment art", says Horse.
He is still involved in film and has most recently been working on a television series pilot called "Sons of Tucson" to be on the air some time this year. He is also involved with many independent films being made by both Native and non-native film makers. Horse serves on the board of the American Indian Film Institute in San Francisco which presents the oldest Native American film festival in the world every November in San Francisco.