Published on January 11, 2013 by Amy
Inspired by the work of artists Oscar Howe and Andrew Standing Soldier, Vic Runnels began to study art in the early 1960s. Runnels’ commercial art studies at Ray-Vogue School of Design and the American Academy of Art, both in Chicago, led him to a career as a successful commercial artist.
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After twelve year as a commercial artist-illustrator in Chicago he returned home to Pine Ridge in 1973. Since then, Runnels has devoted himself primarily to the fine arts. He gives a great deal of credit to the annual Red Cloud Art Show where he has received many awards and much encouragement.
As a prolific artist in a variety of media, his subjects are nineteenth century figures and, more recently, animals, which he presents in semi-abstract compositions reflective of people or beings emerging from a dream or vision. He also combines dreamed animals with their dreamer human figures. His use of color tends to the high intensity registers. While he knows color compositions, his works remain alarming, jarring, and raw. Runnels continually experiments with traditional tribal motifs in his work and has produced a number of offset lithograph reproductions.
Runnels is one of nine Sioux artists who were instrumental in organizing the Dream Catchers Guild. The purpose of this organization is to re-establish the importance of art in the Sioux culture, to promote art markets, and to encourage emerging Sioux artists.
“I am continually experimenting with new mediums, new ideas or old ideas done as contemporary art. . .Art was an extremely important part of the Lakota culture. Indians decorated everything: their buffalo robes, tipi liners, back rests, clothing, parfleches, war shields…everything they used. Then at the BIA schools, art was not taught or encouraged. I was told that Indians should forget about those ‘playthings’. Art is a survival process related to our aptitudes, our coping skills and our environment. Artists are the preservers of the inner spirit. We are the continuum. I believe that good art is alive and well in Lakota country.” ─Vic Runnels