Physicians donate Cecil Dick painting to tribe

BY Phoenix Archives
08/31/2006 06:28 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - A group of Tahlequah physicians recently donated an original painting by Cecil Dick, one of the most honored traditional painters in Cherokee history and known as the "father of Cherokee traditional art."

The 4-foot-tall-by-15-foot-wide acrylic mural is titled "The Curing of the Fever."

Physicians Bryce Bliss, Jim Brixey, Coy Edwards, Herb Littleton, Danny Minor, Ed Pointer and Tom Ward attended the Tribal Council meeting in July and were honored by the council and Principal Chief Chad Smith. Also on hand to commemorate this donation was Dick's daughter Polly Reed and granddaughter Deborah Reed.

"We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to these doctors who made this donation. Cecil Dick is one of the premiere Cherokee artists of all time. For the Cherokee Nation to have this mural means his legacy will endure for many more Cherokees for many generations to come," Smith said.

The mural has been appraised by Native American art experts who agree that it would bring $65,000 to $100,000 at auction.

Dr. Pointer, a friend of the artist, commissioned the mural in the 1960s on behalf of himself and the other owners of the Tahlequah Medical Center, where the painting was displayed for years. The painting portrays Cherokee healing practices prior to contact with Europeans.

"The Cherokee Nation is where this mural belongs, historically and culturally," Pointer said.

Enhancing the mural's value is an accompanying illustrated statement by the artist. This framed statement, 33 inches wide by 41 inches tall, features a stylized floral border on the left, right and bottom borders with three Cherokee men playing stickball at the bottom center. The sepia-toned statement features the mural's title at the top and explains the meaning of the mural, including the imagery, figures and structures that populate it.

"In the painting, the shaman is curing the woman of a fever. In his hand is a gourd dipper containing an ember, which has been quenched by the water in the dipper, 'symbolic of heat cooled by water.' The objective is to cause the fever to leave the body by calling down seven degrees of cold. Seven is a symbolic number to the Cherokees," Dick wrote.

For more than 50 years, Dick recorded Cherokee history and culture in his art and was well known for his commitment to cultural and historical accuracy. He was born in 1915 near Rose Prairie, Okla., and died in 1992 in Tahlequah. At the time of his death he was working on a Cherokee vocabulary book and a Cherokee dictionary.


- CN Communications

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