Monday, April 30, 2012

More Christian Iconography in The Tradition of Plains Indian Pictography

A picture of the icon as in its finished state.
Christian Iconography: The Archangel Gabriel
Plains Indian Pictography
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, N.D. - This past spring season I thought I'd finish a project that began maybe five or six years ago. I had applied plaster to a wood plank then pretty much forgot about it. It sat around in the basement and was occasionally moved when I went to the book shelf, when it would be briefly remembered, then forgotten about. I didn't even know what the icon was going to represent.

It started with a sketch on regular paper. It looked much the same when finished.

I stetched out a couple of concepts of the Archangel Gabriel. I had at first envisioned the angel without wings. Instead, I pictured a figure looking like the above image, only instead of wings, this angel would have clouds behind with lightning making the outline of the wings. I ended up going with wings, because without wings, no one would recognize that it was supposed to be an angel.

The drawing was applied to the plaster and a few parts were filled in.

The wings of Gabriel are often painted blue and red. I kept the edges of the wings silver, in a throwback to my original concept of lightning. Gabriel is said to have a trumpet. The Lakota people did not have trumpets, but we have flutes. I painted Gabriel holding a flute instead. The shirt is a mix of an old time war shirt, like the kind made out of elk skins, and a mix of the late nineteeth century ghost dance shirt.

The icon nears completion.The blue of the sky and wings turned out great.

I added paint to the bottom half of the image. The very top is the celestial heavens, the blue is heaven above. The angel is standing on the world, with his height reaching above the sky and into the stars. The shirt has seven stars. Ghost dance shirts were often decorated with celestial imagery to represent the heavens. In this case, the seven stars on the shirt represent the seven archangels.


I added clouds, a few other destails, and a warbonnet pattern emanating from the traditional halo. In direct sunlight, the icon sparkles and the halo warmly glows.

Here is a close up of the detail on the head, halo, and shirt.

I submitted this icon to the editorial staff of the Indigenous Theology Training Institute's First People's Theology Journal for their consideration, and in hopes the image would be chosen for publication in their forthcoming journal. It was selected. I am grateful and happy.

Visit the Indigenous Theology Training Institute's website sometime, for information about ordering a copy of their journal at: www.indigenoustheologicaltraininginstitute.org.