Published on August 7, 2012 by Amy
Lois Smoky Kaulaity (1907–1981) was a Kiowa painter, one of the Kiowa Five, from Oklahoma.
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Lois Smoky was born in 1907 near Anadarko, Oklahoma. Bougetah was her Kiowa name, meaning “Of the Dawn.” Her father, Enoch Smoky, was the great-nephew of Kiowa Chief Appiatan.
Smoky first studied art at St. Patrick’s Indian Mission School, under the guidance of Sister Mary Olivia Taylor, a Choctaw nun, and received encouragement from Father Aloysius Hitta and Sister Deo Gratias at the school. Susan Peters, the Kiowa agency field matron, arranged for Mrs. Willie Baze Lane, an artist from Chickasha, Oklahoma to teach painting classes to young Kiowas in Anadarko. Recognizing the talent of some of the artists, Peters convinced Swedish-American painting, Oscar Jacobson, director of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Art to accept the Kiowa students into a special program at the school.
The Kiowa Five included six artists: Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Lois Smoky, and Monroe Tsatoke. Smoky was the only woman and the youngest of the group. Finances were tight for the artists, so Smoky’s parents helped them out by renting a house in Norman, where all they lived together. Smoky only studied at OU for the first year. James Auchiah joined the group after she left.
Unfortunately, Smoky was not able to participate in the Kiowa Fives’ major breakthrough into international fine arts’ world at the 1928 First International Art Exposition in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Dr. Jacobson arranged for their work to be shown in several other countries and for Kiowa Art, a portfolio of pochoir prints artists’ paintings to be published in France. It in only in recent decades that her place among the Kiowa Five has been restored, thanks in part to the scholarship of Dr. Mary Jo Watson (Seminole) and the Jacobson House Native Art Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Her paintings resembled the early work of the other Kiowa Five artists. They had minimal backgrounds and focused on individual figures or small groups of people. Smoky emphasised details of traditional clothing and regalia, and she painted Kiowa people attending to daily life or ceremonial pursuits.
Her family wanted her to return home, so Lois Smoky cut her painting career short. Upon returning home, Smoky married and devoted herself to her husband and children. Her married named was Lois Kaulaity, and she lived in Verden, Oklahoma for most of her life. She did develop a reputation for her fine traditional beadwork. Ironically, because hers is the rarest work among the Kiowa Five, Smoky’s work is most collectible.
Her figurative painting was a breakthrough for Southern Plains Indian women, because traditionally Plains women painted geometrical designs rather than narrative, representational work.
Flora Bell Schrock, Smoky’s niece, said in 1995, “Aunt Louise was a hard worker… for her family. She started doing some beadwork, too. She really enjoyed it. And I think she had ambition that could have furthered… her art ability… But after she got married, she said, ‘It’s just impossible now with the children.’”