Title:Prayer for the MotherArtist:Archie Blackowl Date:1911-1992Creation Place:North America, United States, Great Plains regionCredit Line:The Frances M. Norbeck FundAccession Number:2000.3.2
There is a long history of graphic art inspired by the ceremonies of the Native American Church (NAC). The first NAC artist to work in this genre was a Gaigwa (Kiowa) artist named Silverhorn, born in 1861. Archie Blackowl was another active member of the NAC, and many of his paintings were influenced by his experiences in the church's ceremonies. Blackowl's paintings are unique because he was able to capture the emotion of worshippers by focusing on their facial expressions and body language.
In "Prayer for the Mother," Blackowl paints the ceremonial setting in great detail, incorporating all of its essential elements. The Roadman is the figure on the left who is holding the gourd rattle, feather fan, and staff. Between the praying figures are the bucket of water, the water drum, the ceremonial fire, and the sacrament that sits on top of the earthen, crescent-shaped altar, which is painted in profile. The Roadman's upward gaze and the pointed shape of the ceremonial fire directs the viewer to the focal point of the painting, the Waterbird, which doubles as a Crucifix and symbolizes the integration of Christianity and American Indian spirituality.