recognized artist and Spokane Tribe member George Flett died Wednesday
afternoon (January 30, 2013) at the age of 66.
Flett had diabetes since the early 1980s and was undergoing
dialysis three times a week, said his daughter, Regina Flett.
"His heart wasn't strong enough for dialysis," his daughter
said. "So he chose to come home."
His other children are George "Rooster" Flett Jr. and Phillip
George Flett, and he has four grandchildren.
Flett was skilled in sculpture, beadworking and silversmithing,
but was perhaps best known for his ledger art.
Ledger painting is a traditional American Indian art form dating
to the mid-1800s when Plains Indians drew pictographic representations
of heroic deeds and sacred visions on pages torn from U.S. Army
Flett based his mixed-media paintings on Spokane Indian legends,
history and cultural events.
"Ledger art is a way for each tribe to preserve their legends
and stories and tell their history," said Sue Bradley, owner of
the Tinman Gallery in the Garland District, which features Flett's
work. "That's why George did it. He wanted the stories to live on."
Flett often went into his studio in Wellpinit and put on his
favorite Indian music, Bradley said. The images and the spirits
would come to him and he would paint.
"He really lives in both worlds," Bradley said. "What we see
the material world and in the spiritual world."
He received degrees from the Institute of American Indian Arts
in Santa Fe, N.M., in 1966 and from the University of Colorado in
1968. His book, "George Flett: Ledger Art," was published in 2007
by New Media Ventures, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which owns The
studied with other American Indian art icons, including T.C. Cannon
and Kevin Red Star, and trained under Fritz Scholder.
He successfully modernized the traditional ledger art paintings,
"He was an extremely talented artist who was passionate about
making art," she said. "For him, the important part was the creating
of the art and the image."
He is a cousin of Cliff J. SiJohn, a Coeur d'Alene Tribe elder
who emceed the horse parade at Julyamsh, the yearly powwow hosted
by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. SiJohn died Christmas Eve at the age
of 67. Flett helped organize the art show portion of the powwow.
He was remembered Thursday as a kind, attentive and soft-spoken
"I never heard George say a negative word about anybody or anything,"
Bradley said. "Nobody ever had a critical or negative word about
His artwork has been widely displayed around the Inland Northwest
and nationwide at galleries in Santa Fe, Oklahoma, Arizona and Montana.
He taught workshops at the National Museum of the American Indian
in Washington, D.C.
"The culture was there to share," she said. "He wasn't in artistic
competition with people. He mentored quite a few younger artists."
Over the past 20 years, he traveled to shows across the country
with fellow artist and close friend Ric Gendron, sharing motel rooms
and bad meals in the middle of nowhere. Gendron said Flett was an
"He was not only like an older brother, he was a mentor, he
was a teacher for me," Gendron said. "He was, you know, my best
Flett also was an inspiration to other American Indian artists
throughout the Northwest and beyond, Gendron said. His death will
leave a huge void, not just in the art community, but the Indian
community, where he was involved in more than just art.
"He will always be with not just me, but everyone that knew
him," he said. "Everybody loved him. It's just a great loss.
Talking with Her Beau
Under Her Blanket
His Elk Medicine
Prairie Chicken Dancer
Horse Tail Dancer
Medicine is Strong
This website was created by Richard Pearce, Professor of English,
Emeritus, Wheaton College, and Visiting Curator of George Flett's
ledger art exhibit, Balancing Tribal Accounts (January 29th to
March 12th, 2003, in the Beard Gallery of the Wheaton College
Fine Arts Center in Norton, Massachusetts).
Tinman Artworks is a locally owned and managed gallery in the
historic Garland Village District of near-north Spokane. Tinman
exhibits the best of regional artists, focusing on painting. We
have a new show every month, highlighted by with an opening reception
for the artist. We are also proud to exhibit prize-winning Native
American artists from the Spokane, Colville, Blackfeet and Araphoe