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    Avis Charley (Spirit Lake Dakota/ Diné) is a visual artist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She earned her BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico (2018). She is a ledger artist and painter who creates figurative drawings and paintings exploring the evolving Native American identity from pre-reservation period to the present day, from ancestral homelands to city life.

    Ledger art was Charley’s first art form; she learned from and was encouraged by Terrence Guardipee (Blackfeet). Through colonial policies, Charley’s ancestors were imprisoned far from their homelands. While prisoners, they used colored pencils, crayons, and pages from discarded ledger books to share nostalgic stories of hunting, warring, and courting scenes. This graphic, narrative style became known as ledger art. Charley became a ledger artist to bring a woman’s perspective into a male-dominated art form; she shares stories of parenting, family, and community. Through portrait oil painting, Charley started portraying Indigenous women in modern settings. She began celebrating resistance to assimilation and colonization with vibrant hues and details not possible in her ledger pieces. Charley draws inspiration from her culture, friends, family, upbringing, and adornment. She creates work for future generations as she documents contemporary stories and experiences. Charley’s work centers Indigenous visibility with accurate representation, depicting the strength, resilience and beauty of Native women and peoples.

    Charley’s work is in the permanent collections of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Museum of Contemporary Native American Art.

    " I began my career with drawings on antique paper and used the female form as my main subject. Dakota people had used pictorial images for hundreds of generations and used plant and mineral pigments to document our history on buffalo hides. "Ledger Art" began as a male-dominated art form adapted by my ancestors who were imprisoned far from our homelands. Colored pencils, crayons, and pages from discarded ledger books were used by folks such as Howling Wolf, Black Hawk, and many others to remember and document the masculine aspects of culture with stories of hunting, fighting, and courting scenes. As a female ledger artist, I share stories of parenting, family, and community. My dynamic figures come alive and engage us with their humanity. They are empowered with bold colors and intricate details in their adornment as they assert their presence, narrative, and strength.

    The message I seek to communicate is that despite the tragedy in our collective history as Native people, the strength and resiliency derived from our Indigenous matriarchs, sisters, and daughters is what keeps us moving forward and inspiring others. "