'The Four Moons' Academic Awards Poster
“The Four Moons,” a painting created 50 years ago by the late Muscogee Creek/Seminole artist Jerome Tiger to honor Oklahoma’s trailblazing Native American ballerinas, has been selected for the commemorative poster for the 31st annual Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic Awards Banquet.
The painting, which is now part of Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum collection, was commissioned as the cover art for the 1967 Oklahoma Indian Ballerina Festival program and the world premiere of “The Four Moons” ballet. The ballet featured four of Oklahoma’s five Indian prima ballerinas: Yvonne Chouteau (Shawnee-Cherokee), Rosella Hightower (Choctaw), Moscelyne Larkin (Peoria/Shawnee) and Marjorie Tallchief (Osage). The fifth ballerina, Maria Tallchief, had recently retired from dancing at the time. Native American composer Louis Ballard Sr. wrote the ballet to honor the dancers’ individual cultures, with four solos evoking each ballerina’s tribal heritage. The Osage solo was dedicated to both Tallchief sisters.
“Each year, the foundation creates a poster featuring a Native American-themed painting to present to its Academic All-State and Medal for Excellence winners,” said Emily Stratton, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “With the 50th anniversary of ‘The Four Moons’ premiere, Jerome Tiger’s painting is a timely tribute to Oklahoma’s trailblazing Indian ballerinas and beautifully illustrates this year’s Academic Awards Banquet theme, ‘Be a Trailblazer.’”
The five ballerinas, who were named Oklahoma treasures and honored in a mural in the State Capitol rotunda, have had lasting influence locally and globally. Maria Tallchief helped create the New York City Ballet, for which she was a prima ballerina. In 1965, she served as director of ballet for the Chicago Lyric Opera. Her sister, Marjorie – the only living member of the five ballerinas – became artist director of the Dallas Ballet and later director of dance for the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Fla.
Chouteau and her husband, Miguel Terekhov, developed the dance program at the University of Oklahoma and founded the Oklahoma City Civic Ballet, now known as the Oklahoma City Ballet. Larkin founded a ballet and dance school in Tulsa that is now the Tulsa Ballet Theater. Hightower moved to France and opened one of Europe’s leading ballet schools, École supérieure de danse de Cannes.
“The five Indian ballerinas danced their way into the hearts of art lovers throughout the world,” said Jenefar De Leon, an arts writer for the Oklahoman. “They had the skills and techniques that all dancers needed, but unlike many dancers, the five ballerinas had the spirit and passion credited to their Native American heritage and Oklahoma roots.”
“The Four Moons” was among the last paintings that Tiger completed before his untimely death in 1967 at the age of 26. He produced hundreds of paintings in his brief artistic career. His art is represented in the collections of the Philbrook and Gilcrease museums in Tulsa; the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee; Woolaroc Museum near Bartlesville; the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe; and the Museum of the American Indian and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, in Washington, D.C.
The 2017 Academic Awards Banquet commemorative poster, designed by Daren Shepherd of Southwestern Printing, will be available at the Academic Awards Banquet or can be purchased for $20 each, including shipping, by contacting the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence at (405) 236-0006 after May 20.