The exhibit features drawings and prints that defined the Smith’s earliest mature work: art pieces that grew out of native tradition of picture writing. Living in the Southwest, she was surrounded by examples of petroglyphs—images incised in rock that were an important form of pre-writing, a news release from NDMOA said.
She also explored the world of pictographs or images drawn or painted on a rock face and their later expression in ledger drawings and winter counts. A handful of artists began to convert the historic picture writing traditions into contemporary art. Smith, along with Randy House, was a driving force among them.
After a time, Smith—who had relied entirely on visual symbols to tell complex stories—began to integrate traditional native imagery with contemporary symbols. A drawing might contain both tipi and truck, house and coyote story, Appaloosa and geometric symbol, mountain range and airplane.
Gradually, the work began to look less and less like traditional pictographs as ideas from the Western painting tradition crept in. This included the abstract expressionist’s loose handling of paint.
Below: "This untitled work by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, pastel on paper circa 1980, is on exhibit at North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks.