Dyani White Hawk

Multidisciplinary Artist Class of 2023
Portrait of Dyani White Hawk

Illuminating the enduring strength, presence, and influence of Indigenous artistic practices within modern and contemporary art.

location icon Location
Shakopee, Minnesota
age iconAge
46 at time of award
website iconWebsite(s)

About Dyani’s Work

Dyani White Hawk is a multidisciplinary artist revealing the underrecognized yet enduring influence of Indigenous aesthetics on modern and contemporary art. In both her finished objects and art-making process, White Hawk, who is Sičáŋǧu Lakota, centers ideas of connectedness—within community and family, across generations, and between craft and fine art.

White Hawk fuses influences from abstract Lakota artistic practices with those of mid-twentieth-century Minimalist and Color Field painters in a series of paintings entitled Quiet Strength (2016–2020). She transforms traditional Native American quillwork (in which procupine quills are sewn into intricate embellishments for clothing and other objects) and beadwork references into painting by making small, uniform lines that fill the entire canvas. She arranges bands of the painted lines into geometic forms and patterns, such as horizontal stripes against a gold background or diamond shapes defined through subtle variations in color. The intensive labor involved in making the paintings, as evidenced by the thousands of meticulously painted strokes, recollects and celebrates the invisible labor of the many Lakota women who made quill- and, later, bead-based art. For Wopila | Lineage (2021), her contribution to the 2022 Whitney Biennial, White Hawk created a large-scale work that appears flat like a painting, until close inspection reveals thousands of precisely arrayed beads. The interlocking, multi-colored triangles of the image center a Lakota symbol for the connection between the spiritual and earthly words while alluding to both Lakota abstract artistic practices and geometric abstract easel painting. The beads’ reflective qualities subtly change the work’s color with the viewer’s position, foregrounding the importance of perspective in understanding the work. White Hawk created Wopila | Lineage with a 18-person, predominantly Native, crew. Collaboration is a recurring theme across her practice. Her collaboratively produced, multi-channel video installation “Listen” (2020–ongoing) shows Indigenous women speaking in their Native languages on their ancestral lands. Sounds from the environment permeate the scenes and intertwine with the distinct sonorities of each woman’s voice. The women’s words are left untranslated and remind audiences of the many voices, communities, and langauges that dominant colonial culture has aimed to mute, but that nonetheless persist into the present.

White Hawk similarly affirms Indigenous women’s agency in the collaborative project “I Am Your Relative” (2020). This series of life-size photographs shows women wearing traditional skirts and moccasins and black t-shirts on which appear portions of the statement “I am: More than your desire; More than your fantasy; More than a mascot; Ancestral love, prayer, sacrifice; Your relative.” White Hawk reframes Western modernist art within a broader context and initiates transcultural conversations that value and honor the contributions of Indigenous artists to our shared histories.


Dyani White Hawk received an AA (2003) from Haskell Indian Nations University, a BFA (2008) from the Institute of American Indian Arts, and an MFA (2011) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 2011 to 2015, she served as gallery director and curator for All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis. Her work has been exhibited at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Denver; John and Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art, University of Nevada; List Gallery, Swarthmore College; Plains Art Museum; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Tucson Museum of Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Published on October 4, 2023

Photos of Dyani White Hawk

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