Gilcrease Museum presents an exhibition celebrating one of the most influential and inventive Native American artists of the 20th-century, T.C. Cannon (1946-1978, Caddo/Kiowa). T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America is the first major traveling exhibition of Cannon’s work since 1990 and explores the dynamic creative range and legacy of an artist whose life was cut short at age 31. Through nearly 90 works, including 30 major paintings, works on paper, poetry and musical recordings, Cannon’s distinctive and affecting worldview shines through in this groundbreaking exhibition organized by the Peabody Essex Museum.
Deeply personal yet undeniably political, Cannon’s artwork adeptly channels his cultural heritage, experience as a Vietnam War veteran, and the turbulent social and political climate that defined 1960s and ’70s America. Amid ongoing national and global conversations about ethnic identity, social justice, land rights and cultural appropriation, Cannon’s work continues to engage issues that are as relevant now as they were 50 years ago.
“Cannon’s artworks hold a stunning energy-with vivid colors and defiant figures who refuse to be contained,” said Laura Fry, senior curator and curator of art at Gilcrease Museum. “His large-scale paintings and expressive music show American history and pop culture through a Native American lens, tackling complex issues with a blend of raw emotion and humor.”
Tommy Wayne (‘T.C.’) Cannon grew up in a rural farming community in southeastern Oklahoma, raised by his Kiowa father and Caddo mother. In an innovative approach, Cannon fused visual elements from his Native American worldview with European and American artistic influences, such as Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and Robert Rauschenberg. He also played guitar, wrote songs, and performed songs by musicians he deeply respected, like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, and his musical interests spanned country and western, to blues, jazz, and opera. Cannon often listened to music in his studio and created paintings from songs and vice versa.
Cannon’s life’s work, as a masterful interpreter of the complex Native American experience, continues to influence artists and other creative spirits. As the boundaries of American art continue to shift and be reconsidered, making room for a more expansive, inclusive vision, a new look at T.C. Cannon’s work is perfectly timed to help redefine what it means to be American.
T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts. The exhibition was made possible in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation and Ellen and Steve Hoffman provided generous support. We also recognize the generosity of the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum. Media Partner: Northshore Magazine