Ms. Hill had not been raised in a traditional Native American household. Although she wanted to paint Native American subjects, she worried that she lacked knowledge about her culture. After she shared this concern with her father, he agreed to teach her the Creek legends that he had been taught by his father and grandfather. His stories had a strong impact on the subjects that Ms. Hill painted throughout her life.
Ms. Hill painted in a variety of styles – realism, expressionism, abstract expressionism – as well as using traditional Native American artistic techniques. She experimented with media, using oil, tempera, water color, pastel, ink, and mixed media.
Although Ms. Hill often drew on her heritage, focusing on Creek and Cherokee subjects, she also drew inspiration from other Native American cultures. Her paintings depict abstract landscapes with pueblos, or other aspects of the lives of various cultural regions and Indian tribes across the United States.
Unlike many other Native American artists in the in the Southeast, Joan Hill did not pursue a career in art education.
Ms. Hill once said that although she had many offers to teach in universities across the country, and that she loved teaching, she found that her early four years of teaching left little time for her own art.
In addition to receiving national acclaim, Ms. Hill has been recognized throughout the world. In 1978, when China temporarily lifted the ban on Western art and allowed art schools to reopen, Ms. Hill became one of only 24 American artists invited to visit China and meet with the professors of the Central Art Academy of Peking giving Ms. Hill the opportunity to introduce Native American artistic styles to China.
Joan Hill has received more than 270 awards for her artwork. In 1974, the Five Civilized Tribes Museum designated her a Master Artist, the first female to be given this honor. The Smithsonian Institution designated her one of the “People of the Century.” Her career has been an inspiration for both female and Native American artists for decades.
Native American Artists of the Southeast was developed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Museum Program, September 2016.
Shannon Stiles, Staff Curator
Annie Pardo, Museum Program Manager
(with assistance from the summer intern)
Everett, Dianna. “Hill, Joan (1930- ).” Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Accessed August 18, 2016. www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=HI022
Martindale, Rob. “Following a Master: How Joan Hill Became One of America’s Leading Indian Artists.” Tulsa World, December 16, 1990. Accessed August 18, 2016. www.tulsaworld.com/archives/following-a-master-how-joan-hill-became-one-of-america/article_382f4342-653c-579d-89e7-ec9332eea140.html
Palmer, Meredith. “When Public Policy Made a Difference: American Paintings in china in 1981.” The Washington Post, December 23, 2011. Accessed September 29, 2016. www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/when-public-policy-made-a-difference-american-paintings-in-china-in-1981/2011/11/14/gIQAMYrfDP_story.html
Pierpoint, Mary. “Honored One Red Earth 2000: Native American Artist Joan Hill.” Indian Country Today Media Network, June 28, 2000. Accessed August 18, 2016. indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2000/06/28/honored-one-red-earth-2000-native-american-artist-joan-hill-87019
“Women’s Voices at the Council, by Joan Hill.” Oklahoma Arts Council. Accessed August 18, 2016. www.arts.ok.gov/art_at_the_capitol/State_Art_Collection.php?c=sac&awid=85