Arthur Amiotte (Wanblí Ta Hócoka Washté or Good Eagle Center) is a native American artist (American painter, collage artist, educator, and author) who was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1942 and raised between the Reservation and Custer, South Dakota. He is a member of the Oglala Lakota Oyate.
He was given the name Warpa Tanka Kuciyela or Low Black Bird as an infant, but received his second Lakota name in 1972. His great-grandfather, Standing Bear (1859–1933), was at the Battle of Little Big Horn. From 1969 to 1975, his grandmother Christina Standing Bear, a sacred bundle keeper, taught him the heritage of his great-grandfather Standing Bear (Mató Nájin), who illustrated Black Elk Speaks.
He credits his interest in the tribal arts to living on the reservation and being with his family members as they participated in traditional tribal arts and ceremonies.
Throughout his life he has pursued scholarship and intellectualism. He received a bachelor’s degree in art education from Northern State College in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in 1964 and received a Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies in Anthropology, Religion and Art from the University of Montana, where he studied with renowned scholar, Joseph Eps Brown.
Amiotte also holds honorary doctorates from Oglala Lakota College and Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada.
While several college professors encouraged Amiotte to pursue art as a career, it was Dakota (Sioux) artist Oscar Howe who inspired him to utilize his Lakota background and culture in his artwork. He was mentored by Peter Catches, Sr., a respected elder and practitioner of sacred Oglala traditions.
Amiotte is a contemporary Lakota artist, historian and educator and is a highly sought after author and lecturer on Native American arts and contemporary American Indian art. He wrote the section on Sioux Indian arts for the Illustrated History of the Arts in South Dakota , which was published during the State’s Centennial in 1989.
Amiotte’s career – as one of the most influential artists portraying Lakota life, thought and philosophy in the Northern Plains Region – spans four decades.
Lakota philosophy and oral history form the foundation of Amiotte’s artistic work.
His creativity as a whole is an expression of the Lakól wicóh’an washtélaka – the love of the Lakota traditions. Amiotte promotes Lakota rituals and the visionary experiences during the traditional ceremonies also find their impact on his artistic work.
Amiotte defines his work as being bound to the reservation culture which bridges the gap between yesterday and today, a split which is often mastered in an amazing manner. Amiotte has said, “I realized that contemporary art was ignoring the whole reservation period. This had been a dynamic time. Some people were going to school in the east, to Carlisle and Hampton… People were moving onto land allotments. They were familiar with print media, exposed to lots of magazines, pictures, photographs… Daily life was infused with this mixture of nonliterate/literate. There were new technologies… it seemed to me that it was more honest to deal with all this in my art, rather than to create a fake hide painting.”
His collage work is inspired by Ledger art but he takes it to a new level. In a pointed and sharp-witted manner, they reveal the discrepancy of Lakota culture between tradition and modernism (“The Visit,” 1995, Acrylic-Collage; Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Wyoming). He also explores experiences of Lakota people in Europe, during the Wild West show era of the early 20th century.
Amiotte has participated in over 100 exhibitions, including over 20 solo exhibitions. He has shown throughout the United States and Europe, including at the Kunsthallen Bradts Klaedefabrik in Odense, Denmark in 1994-5.
Amiotte’s stature as an educator and artist has been recognized by appointments to prestigious boards and councils, including a temporary advisorship to the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Presidential Advisory Council for the Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center.
Amiotte curated numerous museum exhibitions about the culture of the tribes on the Great Plains, such as at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, New Mexico; the Akta Lakota Museum in Chamberlain, South Dakota; the Buffalo Bill Historical Center of Cody, Wyoming; and the Museum of World Cultures of Frankfurt am Main, Germany in 2006.
Mr. Amiotte has also served on the Indian Advisory Board of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center at Cody, Wyoming. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Native American Art Studies Association, a commissioner of the United States Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board, and a member of the Council of Regents of the Institute of American Indian Arts.
Arthur Amiotte is the recipient of an impressive array of awards, including Arts International; Lila Wallace Readers Digest Artists at Giverny, France, Fellowship; a Getty Foundation Grant; a Bush Leadership Fellowship; the South Dakota Governor’s Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Arts; and the Lifetime Achievement Award as Artist and Scholar from the Native American Art Studies Association. His work is included in 26 public and nearly 200 private collections.
His work, ranging from painting to sculpture and textile objects, is included in such public collections as the Denver Art Museum, the Sequoyah National Research Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, the National Museum of Natural History, as well as many others.
Arthur Amiotte is also a published author. He wrote the section on Sioux Indian arts for the Illustrated History of the Arts in South Dakota , which was published during the State’s Centennial in 1989. He wrote the forward for Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers: Black Hawk’s Vision of the Lakota World, and wrote The Lakota Sun Dance – Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, in Sioux Indian Religion with Raymond J. DeMaillie/Douglas R. Parks, Norman (1987), Eagles Fly Over, and Our Other Selves, in I Become Part of It: Sacred Dimensions in Native American Life, New York, D.M. Dooling/Paul Jordan-Smith (1989), and Art and Indian Children of the Dakotas, Book Five – An Introduction to Art and Other Ideas, and also published an art book of his works titled Transformation and Continuity in Lakota Culture: The Collages of Arthur Amiotte .