Dyani White Hawk

Dyani White Hawk (Sičháŋǧu Lakota), Untitled (Quiet Strength I), 2016, Acrylic on canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Art Gift of funds from Nivin MacMillan, 2016.74, © Dyani White Hawk


This piece is really about honoring the legacy of female abstraction, both in Lakota art forms, but also in the history of painting.
[Speaking Lakota] My name is Dyani White Hawk Polk, I’m Sicangu Lakota. I’m a painter and mixed media artist.

It’s an untitled work, but it’s part of the Quiet Strength series, and it’s the first in that series. I spend a lot of time looking at Lakota art forms, women’s dresses, bags, moccasins, leggings, all sorts of things. I also spend a lot of time looking at the history of abstract painting, and for me there’s a lot of similar qualities in both. The intersections that I’m most attracted to in both of those practices is what this piece is generally about.

The field of white as we see it, the foreground of the piece, is made up of thousands of similar brushstrokes across in horizontal lines. So it mimics simultaneously porcupine quill work and lane stitch or lazy stitch beadwork. And so that horizontal line and then the vertical lines that make up those horizontal lines are to pay tribute to both of those forms that are really specifically Lakota art forms.

The gold underneath that painting … First of all, there’s many layers of paint underneath the horizontal lines. All of those layers of paint and all of those colors that are behind that gold help that piece move and dance and shimmer in the way that it does.

Watch a video of the artist


Ičazo ota owa ga hena ipathapi iyečheča. Ičazo iyoko mazazi kiŋ hinaphe. Dakhota Oyate kiŋ ipathapi kiŋ theȟiŋdapi. Wašiču Oyate kiŋ mazazi kiŋ theȟiŋdapi. Dyani White Hawk Ikče Wičhašta ga Wašiču wokağe okaȟniȟphiča šni ga wokphaŋ ga wipathapi kiŋ hena theȟiŋda. Hena wokağe kiŋ uŋ itowapi owa hečhed Ikče Wičhašta wokağe kiŋ yuathaŋiŋ kte. Čhasthuŋ šni iš Owaŋžida waš’ake waŋži eyapi he itowapi thokaheya ipathapi ičazo kiŋ owa. Itowapi kiŋ de wadaka čha ičazo kiŋ škaŋškaŋ seečheča. Nakuŋ wawayaka kiŋ itowapi wayaka čha woabdakeda ga wowaȟbada yuha awiičihdukčaŋ.


Precious gold peeks through the intricately painted “quill” lines—each component representing a valuable resource for two very different cultures. Dyani White Hawk (Sičháŋǧu Lakota) combines her love of Native abstraction, like that found in painted rawhide containers and objects decorated with porcupine quills, with her admiration of non-Native abstract art to create paintings that broaden the perception of Native art. Untitled (Quiet Strength I) is the first in a series in which White Hawk used quill lines to explore movement, repetition, and line in a white-on white scheme, giving viewers a visual experience that offers opportunities for reflection and contemplation.