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Journey To The Medicine Wheel

Artwork Inquiry

Howard TerpningCAA

( b. 1927 )
Giclee s/n (1/85)

“The medicine wheel has been described by Native Americans as a Chapel in the Wilderness. The circle represents the universe. The lines to the center are messengers which carry the voice of man to God. The rock represents great grandmother earth."

There is one such site at 10,000 feet atop the Big Horn Mountains. The limestone rocks form a circle almost 90 feet in diameter with 28 spokes. It is said that today more than 80 tribes take the long hike up the mountain to worship at the wheel. Crow tribal elder John Hill says that for more than a millennium the wheel has been a place for fasting and vision quests. There are many such wheels of varying sizes throughout the Northern Plains, some known only to the Native American.

"I first became interested in the medicine wheel when a friend brought me to the site of a small one in 1985 in the Bitterroot Range. I took a photo of the scene but it was getting dark and the image was underexposed, but at least it gave me a record of the scene. I thought there I might do a painting about the wheel, but nothing came to mind. Fifteen years later another friend sent me a newspaper article with a photo of the wheel covered with snow. I mulled over the idea for another seven years before I finally figured out how the picture should be composed. I’m relieved that the
painting is finally out of my system and yet sad that the adventure is over.” - Howard Terpning

Artist Bio

Quite simply, Howard Terpning is one of the most lauded painters of Western art. His awards are so numerous and he is honored with them so often, that to list them would require changing the count every few months. To name three would be to cite the highest prizes awarded to Western art: countless awards from the Cowboy Artists of America, the Hubbard Art Award for Excellence, the National Academy of Western Art’s Prix de West and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gene Autry Museum.

Why such praise? Passion, compassion, devotion and respect for his subject matter, extraordinary talent in palette and brushstroke, an exceptional ability to evoke emotion both in his paintings and from those viewing them — all this and more has made Terpning the "Storyteller of the Native American."

Born in Illinois and educated at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the American Academy of Art, he first gained attention from some powerful Time and Newsweek covers. Film fans praised his movie posters for such classics as The Sound of Music, Dr. Zhivago and the re-issue of Gone with the Wind.

He lives with his family in Tucson, Arizona, and works in a large studio attached to his home, usually keeping a painting schedule of working all day, six days a week. His daughter, Susan Terpning, also has become a successful artist.

Organizations: CAA, NAWA, OPA

Biography Courtesy of

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