The Nut Harvest

Artist: Jean Myers Bales

The Nut Harvest depicts a group of women harvesting pecans, an important component of the Native American diet during the autumn after removal to Indian Territory. In an interview with the Lawton Constitution in 1987, artist Jean Bales said her harvest paintings are all focused on the 1890s period and feature tribal women wearing the loose-fitting calico dresses that missionaries taught them to make. “A lot of artists just paint Indian ceremonials and war dances. I like the everyday activities that are pleasant to look at, like picking sunflowers or harvesting nuts or corn.”

In an artist statement from a 1974 exhibit, she said, “Art, among the American Indian, has been and continues to be the communication of the history and values of the people. Art can communicate excitement and celebration or anxiety and mourning.” She went on to say, “More and more I realize the humanity of my ancestors. The past is no longer impersonal, it is filled with people being people. As all people do, they changed with time.”

Bales attended Chickasha public schools before going to the Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts in 1965. In 1969, she graduated with a bachelor’s in professional art. A member of the Iowa tribe, she taught crafts at the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Sill Indian School 1971-1972. Bales also served as an officer in the Oklahoma Indian Art League. In 1973, she received the Governor’s Cup for Outstanding Indian Artist at an exhibition at Shepherd Mall.

Her work has been exhibited at the National Indian Art Exhibit, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, and the Denver Museum of Natural History. Her work was also featured on a French wine label in the late 1980s. In 1984, she was named Artist of the Year by the Indian Arts and Crafts Association. The Nut Harvest is acrylic on handmade paper and is on permanent loan from the Oklahoma History Center.