Joan Hill ~ Muscogee Creek artist of Cherokee

Published on May 21, 2015 by Amy

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Acrylic Painting Depicting an Eagle Dance, Joan Hill
Acrylic Painting Depicting an Eagle Dance, Joan Hill

Joan Hill (born 1930), also known as Che-se-quah, is a Muscogee Creek artist of Cherokee ancestry. She is one of the most awarded women artists in the Native American art world.

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Joan Hill was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1930. Hill is a descendant of both Muscogee Creek and Cherokee chiefs. She was named Cheh-se-quah, Muscogee for “Redbird,” for both her great-grandfather, Redbird Harris, and her maternal grandfather.

Hill currently lives on the site of old Fort Davis of the Confederacy with her family. Her studio is adjacent to a Pre-Columbian Indian mound dating from 1200 CE.

Art career

Hill attended Bacone College. In 1952, she received her BA degree in Education from Northeastern State University of Tahlequah, Oklahoma in 1952. In 1953, Hill took the Famous Artists Course. She was a public art teacher for four years before becoming a full-time artist.

She has received more than 290 awards from countries including Great Britain and Italy. Other honors include over 20 Grand Awards, and the Waite Phillips Artist Trophy. In addition, Hill was the winner of a prestigious mural competition at the Daybreak Star Performing Arts Center from the Seattle Arts Commission in Washington. In 1974 Hill was given the title “Master Artist” by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee.

Over 110 of her works are in permanent collections, including the Sequoyah National Research Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, the United States Department of the Interior Museums of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Washington, D.C. and the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, New York City. State appointments include to the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women by Governor Henry Bellmon, 1989. National Appointments include U.S. Commissioner to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Washington D.C., by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior-2000. In 2000, Hill was the “Honored One” of the Red Earth festival in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Hill is known most for her stylized, acrylic paintings of historical and cultural scenes, employed a limited palette of neutrals, oranges, reds, and purples. She also works in watercolors using negative space to define foliage, mounds, or other landscape features. “Each element of her paintings is purposeful,” writes author Susan C. Power. She predominately paints Creek and Cherokee women and frequently paints the nude figure. Hill also explores nonobjective abstraction.

Hill said in 1991, “Art widens the scope of the inner and outer senses and enriches life by giving us a greater awareness of the world.”

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