EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY: Chee … Art through adversity

With Jeremy Edwards from AntiqArt

This is a completely different type of story this week about a painting that is unique to me both in style and content.

It is a real rarity from a young artist who packed an awful lot into a very short life.

Robert Hashke-Yil-Cale Chee (1937-1971) was an indigenous American Indian artist, specifically a Navajo.

His life and that of his teacher, Apache artist Allan Hauser, were indicative of the many indignities that were meted out to the Native Amercians and other minorities right into the mid to late 20th century in the United States of America.

Chee was born on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and, as was the custom back in those days, he was separated from his family at an early age to be educated at the International Indian School in Utah.

Chee, like many other children, was taken to the school that was housed in a disused US Military Base to be taught English and vocational skills, away from their tribes and families so as to get assimilated into mainstream America. Or at least, that was the thinking.

It was while at this school that Chee met, and was taken under the wing of, Hauser.

He recognised the potential of this young boy – Hauser’s own father and mother had been imprisoned by the US government for 27 years prior to his birth in 1914, his father having fought alongside Geronimo up to his surrender in 1886!

At that time more than 1,200 of his father’s tribe had been shipped from their homeland of New Mexico to prison in Florida by cattle trains. Thankfully, Hauser was a hugely positive influence on the young Chee and encouraged him to paint in a style which is referred to as the traditional flat painting of the American Southwest.

On leaving school Chee signed up to the US Army and served in Germany where he was tasked with painting murals on the interior walls of many military buildings out there.

He left the military in 1960 and returned to Arizona, where he started to get recognition as a quality artist, winning many awards and prizes.

Sadly, Chee died at the premature age of only 34.

His work is typically of traditional Navajo rituals and scenes, many of which are now to be found in the Smithsonian and the Southwest Museum. This painting is an original gouache of a Navajo lady riding her pony.

This picture is currently available

for sale in my showroom or in my online shop and has real value in it, being priced at only £250.

Alternatively, we now offer a leasing arrangement, so this along with all of our paintings, can be rented for a small fixed monthly rental fee.

This piece, along with many other great works, is available to view, purchase or rent at AntiqArt, the “preloved art” gallery at Holme Grange Craft Village or online at www.antiqart.co.uk or call us on 0118 327 5421.

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Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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