James Auchiah "Harvest Dance," Dept of Interior - Washington DC
The Stewart Lee Udall Department of the Interior building contains one of the largest collections of New Deal art in Washington DC by some of the finest American artists of the time.
Kiowa artist James Auchiah studied mural painting with Olle Nordmark in Oklahoma before coming to Washington. Auchiah painted a large (8′ x 50′), oil-on-rough-plaster lunette, “Harvest Dance”, on the west wall of the main cafeteria in the basement. It was funded by the Treasury Section of Fine Arts.
“Auchiah’s mural, ‘Harvest Dance,’ is an example of pure design and centers on a scene of Indians around a campfire with their tipis in the background. The dance is to the left of the campfire with four dancers and two drummers and singers performing. On the far right, a squaw sits and watches as jerky dries over another fire. Nearby, a ceremonial shield hangs in a tree with a coup staff and scalps. The mural stretches seventy-five feet wide and is about eight or nine feet high above three sets of doors. The predominant colors are green, yellow, brown, and red on a background of beige, which is the wall of the cafeteria.” (Pate 1974)
The Department of Interior Museum offers regular mural tours; check their website for information and registration.
For more information on the Interior building, its art and the artists, see Look and Perrault 1986. Artworks begin on p. 110.
Look, David and Carole Perrault. The Interior Building: Its Architecture and Its Art. Washington DC: US Department of Interior, National Park Service, 1986. pp. 110-172. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015029850214&view=1up&seq=1
McLerran, Jennifer. 2009. A New Deal for Native Art: Indian Arts and Federal Policy, 1933-1943. University of Arizona Press.
Pate, J'Nell. "Kiowa Art from Rainy Mountain: The Story of James Auchiah." American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Autumn, 1974), pp. 193-200.
Project originally submitted by Charles Swaney on March 22, 2015.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.
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