Dwight Billedeaux (Blackfeet)
Lewis & Clark Back to the Earth, monoprint, 2004; 14½ x 22”
Billedeaux was raised in Sunburst, Montana and in later years, Las Vegas, Nevada. Graduating from Bishop Gorman High School in 1965, Billedeaux was accepted one year later to the San Francisco Art Academy. Unfortunately, he was not able to attend as he was also drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam from 1966-1970. Upon his return from the war, he attended Western Montana College in Dillon and transferred to The University of Montana in 1971, where he focused his studies in painting. He remained in Montana afterwards and for 25 years educated students at Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Reservation in traditional arts, including beadwork and roach making.
Billedeaux is widely known for his sculptures that are powerful statements on Indian culture, past and present. The artist creates dynamic sculptures from found objects like wire, cans, bottles and car parts. Using second-hand materials, Billedeaux has developed a body of work that influences other artists who collect and create found art from recycled materials in Montana.
Lewis and Clark Back to Earth is an extension of Billedeaux’s experimental and tactile approach to art. He created the figures of Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea in wire and used the figures as elements on the birch bark printing surface, crushing the figures in the run through the press. Every print in the edition of 25 is unique.
The resulting embossed lines reflect a true story. Unlike many romantic depictions of Lewis and Clark pointing into the distance as though they knew exactly where they were going, Billedeaux shows Sacagawea in the foreground, leading the party. The artist’s composition and subject matter pay homage to an unacknowledged leader, suggesting that without Sacagawea, Lewis and Clark would have been utterly lost.
University of Montana, Missoula, MT
Western Montana College, Dillon, MT
Native Perspectives on the Trail, Missoula Art Museum, 2005 (touring 2005-07)
Contemporary Woodcarvers, Art Museum of Missoula, 1995
Treaty Times: Past, Present and Future, Art Museum of Missoula, 1991
Contemporary Indian Artists, Missoula Museum of the Arts, 1990