News Column

Seminal artist's work on display — Five Civilized Tribes Museum show features art by Jerome Tiger

August 8, 2014

By E.I. Hillin, Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.

Aug. 08--For more than 50 years the American Indian art world has been inspired by the abilities of one young artist who perfected the skill of bringing paintings to life.

"Even though he died decades ago, he is still one of our most popular artists today," said Mary Robinson, director of the Five Civilized Tribes Museum.

Jerome Tiger grew up in Eufaula and went to school in Muskogee. His work, "Becoming the 46th State," was an assignment for his Oklahoma history class at Alice Robertson Junior High.

Many believe his career was cut short before his prime, but his ability to capture motion and put it in his art work led to his success at a young age.

In honor of Tiger's life and art, the Five Civilized Tribes Museum will open an exhibit today featuring his work.

Born on July 8, 1941, Tiger would gain most of his perspective from watching events that took place within his family and culture. Robinson said Tiger and his brother would sneak out and watch traditional stomp dances. Depicting muscle tone and facial expressions was one way Tiger brought his work emotion and life.

"He spent a lot of time observing," Robinson said. "He focused on every day life."

Tiger submitted paintings to the Philbrook Art Museum in Tulsa in 1962. His work quickly began to receive attention.

For the next five years Tiger's work would gain such prestigious honors as the All American Indian Days Grand Award in Sheridan, Wyo., and first prize in the National Exhibition of American Indian Art, which was held in Oakland, Calif.

Tiger attended an institute in Cleveland for a short time.

"He left there because he decided he knew how the body moved and how his muscles worked," Robinson said. "He went home and perfected his style."

In 1967, at the age of 26, Tiger died as a result of a handgun accident. He was survived by his wife, Peggy, and three children.

"He was just becoming world known, not just in the area," Robinson said.

Tiger's influence lives on today.

Virginia Stroud, said she was a teenager when she met Tiger.

"He must have been 24 when I met him," Stroud said. "He brought a whole new movement to the art world with the way he painted."

Stroud said that prior to Tiger, Native art was two-dimensional, with no action.

"He would make the horses leap into the sky," Stroud said. "That was big."

Movements and emotion, perspective and shading were his influences she said.

"He was really instrumental in bringing movement and action."

Stroud said she recalled one of his first shows in the area at the "Old Calhoun store on Main Street."

"It sold out in a matter of minutes," Stroud said.

Tiger went home and did more paintings and brought them back to sell, she said.

The largest collection of Tiger's work is at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum.

"Many artists come in and study his work," Robinson said.

The exhibit is on the second floor of the museum and will be on display until October.

Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or

If you go

WHAT: Jerome Tiger Exhibit.

WHEN: Today through October. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Five Civilized Tribes Museum, 1101 Honor Heights Drive.

INFORMATION: (918) 683-1701.


(c)2014 the Muskogee Phoenix (Muskogee, Okla.)

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Source: Muskogee Phoenix (OK)

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