“I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.”

Before I started painting, I started drawing – family members, animals, everything I could think of to hone my craft and practice proportion, perspective and composition. Naturally, at some point I wanted to try my hand at the subjects that most interest me – characters and scenes from the early American West.

This image, drawn in 2007 from one of the most famous photographs of the man called Geronimo or Goyathlay (“one who yawns”) is, perhaps, my tribute to the man and his legend.

Imagine, for just a moment, a new government took over your country and told you your land was no longer your own, your lifestyle needed to change and your people needed to move. That is exactly what happened to many native cultures, including the Apache. What would you do? Would you wage war?

Geronimo did and his actions – his passion for his people and life – are part of what made Geronimo such a fascinating man. He was a fierce leader who fought against what he believed was the imprisonment of his people.

Of course, not everyone at the time thought of him as a hero – the pioneers and settlers of Arizona and New Mexico were terrified of the man they believed was a cold-blooded murderer. The U.S Government wanted him stopped.

However, to his own people, he embodied Apache values – courage and aggression.

For further reading on the life of Geronimo, here are some links to excellent articles, and I hope you’ll check them out.
How can I not admire a man who fought so hard to preserve his way of life against daunting odds?

I know I would have loved to spend some time listening to this man, learning his history, seeing the world through his eyes, well… perhaps not as a settler or an opponent on the battlefield.

How about you… would you have wanted to know Geronimo?

Home Sweet Home

Much of western art from the 19th and 20th centuries portrays the American West in a romantic and idealized style, often glossing over the harsh conditions of life. “Home Sweet Home” is an effort to frame the Native American woman in a realistic setting. Her lodge reflects the rough reality of outdoor living – no paradise, little comfort and the bare minimum shelter to survive in an unfriendly environment. The small size emphasizes the central theme – life is hard.

Gone is the romance. Remaining is the reality of a hard life.

Her pose shows her braced against the harsh cold. She is somber, almost fearful.

She might be waiting for the return of her husband, gone too long, on a hunt, a raid, or a vision quest. She may be wondering when she will eat again or when a son or daughter will return.

What do you think is happening when you look at her somber expression? Do her eyes mirror the actuality of her life?

Home Sweet Home

by Gale F. Trapp, 2012
Acrylic on hardboard, 5×9″
Sold – Prints available

The Trade

The Trade
by Gale F. Trapp, 2012

the trade

The scene is typical of an early winter or late fall camp. The leaves are gone from the trees. The buffalo jerky, drying on the poles, hints of a recent hunt. But what else is happening here?

Is this a simple horse trade, or could there be romance in the brisk evening air? Is she, perhaps, inviting him to her lodge?

What does she have that he wants? Or, just maybe, is it that she wants something from him?

Could it be that the tribal elders directed him to pay in prairie currency for an unintended offence?

What do you think? I painted it… but even I do not know – for sure.

About the painting – acrylic on hardboard, 7”x9”. Available for purchase.