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Kiowa Agency

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Kiowa Agency: Stories of the Six

Oct. 1, 2020 – Jan. 17, 2021

Tour the Exhibition

Explore the exhibition space from the comfort of your home using Matterport! For how to navigate the space, once you click play, click on the Help button in the lower-right corner for guidance.

About the Exhibition

From 1927 to 1929, while at the University of Oklahoma, six Kiowa artists created many paintings featuring Kiowa culture. Now referred to as the Kiowa Six, this cohort included Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Lois Smoky, and Monroe Tsatoke. 

"Courtship" by Lois Smoky, FJJMA

Previous scholarship about the group has credited Oscar B. Jacobson, who was the director of OU’s School of Art at the time, with “discovering” the Kiowa Six and having a pivotal role in their artistic production. While acknowledging that several individuals had an impact on their early careers, this exhibit aims to rewrite the narrative. Both before and after their short residencies at OU, members of the Kiowa Six acted as strong agents of cultural preservation and transmission. Asserting their own agency, they navigated individually the pressures of assimilation from the Kiowa Agency as well as external expectations for their artistic practices. 

“Kiowa Agency” is generously supported by the Mellon Foundation. The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the graduate student curators for the exhibit, Mariah Ashbacher, Julia Harth, and Olivia von Gries, acknowledge the Osage and Wichita People, on whose ancestral lands this exhibition is located.

What is "agency?"

agency (a·gen·cynoun): The capacity of individuals to act independently and make free choices.

Example: How members of the Kiowa Six chose to develop their artistic styles, even as they performed important services to their communities. 

agency (a·gen·cynoun): A governmental department that is responsible for a particular activity.

Example: The Anadarko Agency, run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which services the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and six other tribes.

"Beadwork Designs" by James Auchiah, The Arthur and Shifra Silberman Collection, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
"Kiowa Agency" by Stephen Mopope, National Cowboy & Western History Museum, Gift of Bruce Vanlandingham