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Avis Charley (Spirit Lake Dakota/ Diné) is a visual artist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She earned her BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico (2018). She is a ledger artist and painter who creates figurative drawings and paintings exploring the evolving Native American identity from pre-reservation period to the present day, from ancestral homelands to city life.
Ledger art was Charley’s first art form; she learned from and was encouraged by Terrence Guardipee (Blackfeet). Through colonial policies, Charley’s ancestors were imprisoned far from their homelands. While prisoners, they used colored pencils, crayons, and pages from discarded ledger books to share nostalgic stories of hunting, warring, and courting scenes. This graphic, narrative style became known as ledger art. Charley became a ledger artist to bring a woman’s perspective into a male-dominated art form; she shares stories of parenting, family, and community. Through portrait oil painting, Charley started portraying Indigenous women in modern settings. She began celebrating resistance to assimilation and colonization with vibrant hues and details not possible in her ledger pieces. Charley draws inspiration from her culture, friends, family, upbringing, and adornment. She creates work for future generations as she documents contemporary stories and experiences. Charley’s work centers Indigenous visibility with accurate representation, depicting the strength, resilience and beauty of Native women and peoples.
Charley’s work is in the permanent collections of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Museum of Contemporary Native American Art.
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