David Penney will discuss Sayosapa, creator of some best-known Northern Plains masterworks

By | September 9, 2015

Recent research has demonstrated that some of the best-known masterworks of Northern Plains Indian painting were created by Sayosapa, a Yu’wipi—or “stone doctor”—who reinvented himself as an artist during the early years of the Fort Peck Reservation.

For this month’s Donald Danforth Jr. Annual Lecture on Native American Art, Professor David W. Penney will discuss Sayosapa (c. 1850-1902) in the context of the collapse of buffalo culture, the imposition of colonial rule in the northern plains of the late 19th century, and the creative strategies Indian peoples adopted in order to survive.

The lecture—titled Sayosapa: Visionary Artist and ‘Stone Doctor’ of Fort Peck, Montana—starts at 6:30 pm on Thursday, October 15 in the Museum’s Farrell Auditorium. Although the event is free, tickets are required. They can be obtained in-person at the Art Museum, or through MetroTix, which charges a service fee of $3 per ticket.

David W. Penney

David W. Penney

An internationally recognized scholar in the field of Native American art and culture, Penney is the first associate director of the new scholarship department at the National Museum of the American Indian. Penney manages the offices of history and culture, Latin America, collections research and documentation, contemporary art, and repatriation.

Penney joined the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1980 as curator of Native American Art and ultimately served as vice president of exhibitions and collections strategies from 2003 to 2011. At the Detroit Institute of Arts, Penney directed the creation of one of the finest Native American collections in the country.

Curator of many exhibitions of note, Penney is also the author of numerous publications. His most recent work includes an essay in Infinity of Nations, which was published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name. Penney is an adjunct professor of art history at Wayne State University, a position he has held since 1988. He received his Ph.D. in art history and archaeology from Columbia University and his Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from New York University, where he graduated summa cum laude.

The Donald Danforth Jr. Annual Lecture on Native American Art honors the legacy of the late Mr. Danforth and his love of Native American culture and the West.