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Gerald Cournoyer

Oglala Lakota
(b. 1966)
Gerald Cournoyer

Growing up on a reservation in South Dakota, Cournoyer’s roots are revealed in one way or another in everything he paints.

“My paintings reflect cosmology of the Lakota Sioux people. The symbolism of the geometric shape, color usage and repetitive motif reflects a verse in a song, the more often you sing, the closer you are with the Great Spirit,” said Cournoyer.

He is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge, South Dakota. After high school, he enlisted and served in the United States Marine Corps for 4 years and then went on to earn degrees from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico and a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Art at the University of South Dakota before completing his M.F.A. from the University of Oklahoma.

Gerald Cournoyer’s work has evolved since he first began his career. “It’s more of a process to paint. My use of color in my paintings is personal. I use complementary colors to represent the relationship of the life on earth and the after-life and how we walk in balance between the two worlds.”

Cournoyer explains that the use of color and symbolism is evident in his more recent works as he deals with the death of his father. “I’ve interwoven ravens throughout my work because they are symbolic messengers of the spirit. The smoke from the pipe carries our prayers and expresses our faith.”

Inspiration, in the beginning came from other Native American artists, Fritz Scholder, Allan Houser, T. C. Cannon, Oscar Howe and Dan Namingha. Now, he’s moved on into more abstract and contemporary work by Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, Jim Wade and others.

"Gerald Cournoyer’s work is showing significant advances and is now exciting the notice of art dealers, collectors and critics. He is defined by his Northern Lakota roots, adapted themes and Native cosmology to paint abstract works of startling and brilliant color. His paintings reveal his intense devotion to tradition, yet appear in bold blocks of color reminiscent of quill work and the designs of the Northern Plains,” said Dr. Mary Jo Watson, Associate Dean of the OU College of Fine Arts.

Watson says that while he is a young man, Cournoyer is already putting a unique fingerprint on his paintings.

Cournoyer has over forty exhibitions to his credit and is represented by galleries in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, South Dakota and Italy.

View the full artist statement.

Oklahoma Arts Council and University Art Galleries.


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