Published on January 8, 2013 by Amy
Don Montileaux (Yellowbird) was born in 1948 at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
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After graduating from Rapid City High School in 1966, he attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Black Hills State College, Spearfish, South Dakota.
He began his professional administrative career at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Eventually, he was promoted to assistant manager. After 22 years, he decided it was time to move on and pursue his artistic dream.
Montileaux is primarily a selftaught artist. He built a reputation by working and creating a unique style.
His flat, two-dimensional paintings are symbolic of warriors and horses flying across the plains in their finery. His canvases are bold, abstract paintings with the brilliant colors typical of the geometric designs placed on parfleche bags and other household items used by the Plains Indians.
People who see Montileaux’s horses know they are “his horses,” which are not unlike those drawn and painted by Herman Red Elk, his mentor and friend of many years.
In the summers of 1964 and 1965, Don attended an art workshop taught by world renowned artist Oscar Howe. There, he met Herman Red Elk.
To this day, Montileaux says, “I have to acknowledge these two gentlemen and give them credit for where I am today. They are the ones who gave me a sense of belonging, of who I am as a Lakota person. These two men also gave me my Lakota name, Yellowbird.”
Montileaux’s work is featured in art galleries in South Dakota, New Mexico, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado and in many public and private collections throughout the United States. An exhibition of his paintings and drawings created between 1975 and 2002 is now touring the country. The exhibition traces the artist’s full career and examines works ranging from his early traditional pieces to his contemporary works.
“With one’s spirit, I dream; I create; I paint; I share. You know you are an artist when the people outside … the public, the curators, the people who know about art … say you are an artist,” Montileaux said.