Angel De Cora, Karen Thronson, and the Art of Place
How Two Midwestern Women Used Art to Negotiate Migration and Dispossession
by Elizabeth Sutton
Pub Date 16 Mar 2020
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Angel De Cora (c. 1870–1919) was a Native Ho-Chunk artist who received relative acclaim during her lifetime. Karen Thronson (1850–1929) was a Norwegian settler housewife who created crafts and folk art in obscurity along with the other women of her small immigrant community. The immigration of Thronson and her family literally maps over the De Cora family’s forced migration across Wisconsin, Iowa, and onto the plains of Nebraska and Kansas. Tracing the parallel lives of these two women artists at the turn of the twentieth century, art historian Elizabeth Sutton reveals how their stories intersected and diverged in the American Midwest.
By examining the creations of these two artists, Sutton shows how each woman produced art or handicrafts that linked her new home to her homeland. Both women had to navigate and negotiate between asserting their authentic self and the expectations placed on them by others in their new locations. The result is a fascinating story of two women that speaks to universal themes of Native displacement, settler conquest, and the connection between art and place.
“Entwining the lives of two women from very different cultures, Sutton offers intimate portrayals of Native American and Norwegian American experiences of the frontier United States, revealing ways that underappreciated handicraft traditions carry deep meanings and how art more broadly provides links to tradition and community amid displacement and cultural upheaval.”—Joni L. Kinsey, author, Plain Pictures: Images of the American Prairie
“In this incisive study, the lives of two women—one from the Ho-Chunk Nation and the other a Norwegian immigrant—cast new light on the forces of settler colonialism and industrial capitalism in the Midwest. Elizabeth Sutton skillfully bridges their separate experiences by drawing on the skeins—art, resilience, and attachment to place—that braid such quintessentially American stories together.”—Katrine Barber, author, In Defense of Wyam: Native-White Alliances and the Struggle for Celilo Village