Page 1

Z . S . lIanG

Native Trails

Fresh Tracks

Z . S . lIanG

Native Trails

Fresh Tracks

Text by Tom Saubert

A few years back, I met Z.S. Liang at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Park in Montana. Honestly, I cannot remember how long we have known each other, but it feels like I have known him a lifetime. My first impression of him was of a humble man seeking to tell the truth of the Native American tribes through his enormous gift of artistry with paint and brush. The strokes of his paint brush tell our story. Z.S.’s paintings capture the true images of his subjects. I have met and known many artists, but Z.S. has the ability to tell the stories in detail with his brush, and bring them to life. I am delighted to have met Z.S. and I am proud to call him my friend. Ernie LaPointe (Crowfoot) Great-Grandson of Sitting Bull

Greenwich Workshop Press Seymour, CT

This book is dedicated to all the American Indian People. - Z.S.Liang

contents Foreword 6 Preface 7 Introduction:

The Western narratives of artist Z.s. liang Chapter 1

Hunter-Gatherers and Indian Traders Chapter 2

Defenders of land and lifestyle


Chapter 3

United by family and spirituality Acknowledgments 143 A GREENWICH WORKSHOP PRESS BOOK The Greenwich Workshop, Inc. 151 Main St., Seymour, CT 06483 (800) 243-4246 Paintings ©2014 Zhuo S. Liang Text ©Tom Saubert ISBN-13: 978-0-86713-159-8 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, altered, trimmed, laminated, mounted or combined with any text or image to produce any form of derivative work. Nor may any part of this book be transmitted in any form or by any means, digital, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The author, artist and publisher have made every effort to secure proper copyright information. In the event of inadvertent error, the publisher will make corrections in subsequent printings. The art of Z.S. Liang is published in fine art editions by The Greenwich Workshop, Inc. Artifact on previous page: Sioux quilled buffalo tail hair ornament Jacket front: Pride of the Blackfeet Jacket back: Overlooking Two Medicine River, 1806 Design: Milly Iacono Manufactured in Canada by Friesens First printing 2014 1 2 3 4  17 16 15 14

Index 144








Zhuo began to study the Woodland Indian tribes and the Indian people east of the Rockies. During

attention was an Indian man in the poster who was holding a bow and arrow, and had a fox pelt

a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian he came across a book entitled Little Big Horn

quiver hanging behind his shoulder. A few days later, I went to the address on that poster and found

Remembered: The Untold Story of Custer’s Last Stand. After reading the book, he traveled to Montana

myself standing in middle of the Indian village. There were Indian men and women dressed in deer

and visited the actual battle site.

skin garments doing all kinds of daily activities as if they were in the 1620s. I marveled at every

detail I saw, such as a tree dug-out canoe, a woven basket, and a feather headdress. I was so excited

hile earning his Masters Degree in Fine Art at Boston University, Zhuo’s interests were aroused by the history of his new country. He recognized a corresponding relationship

between the Native American’s struggles, and that of his own peoples in rural Chinese villages.

Zhuo’s excitement from this experience initiated a serious, dedicated study of the Native Ameri-

or years, I had been searching for what I really wanted to paint. One day, I saw a poster in a showcase at a highway rest area. It was for the Plimoth Plantation and the Wampanoag

Homesite, an outdoor, living history, Indian museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts. What caught my

can tribes of the Great Plains. He visited the Crow, Cheyenne, Lakota and Blackfeet Reservations and

to meet these people and eager to learn more about them. As a painter, I could not wait to put down

began to collect artifacts and books on Indian culture. He met fellow artists who shared his same

all the fascinating stories on my canvas. After this experience, my first Indian painting, Wampanoag

interests, and he was introduced to recognized authorities and scholars on the Plains Indian tribes.

Hunter, was born.

Zhuo was certain this was the direction his art would take him.

on the time period between 1803, when the Lewis and Clark Expedition started, and 1890, the

I was introduced to the paintings of Z.S. Liang by Maryvonne Leshe of Trailside Galleries in

My journey went on and my vision extended from the East to the West Coast. I began to focus

2003 while visiting galleries in Scottsdale, Arizona. She had just begun to represent his work. I was

death of Sitting Bull. I kept reading, visiting museums, studying historical sites, and making friends

intrigued by what I saw in these few paintings; here was an artist with enormous potential, all the

with people from different tribes. I constantly try to visualize what really happened during those

basics were there. It was obvious this artist had a solid foundation, his drawing skills were excellent,

different time periods and how the American Indian people appeared at the time. I often wonder

and it appeared he was challenging himself with each painting.

how the Blackfoot Weather Maker moved the storm away, how the “black boy” figure in the River

Crow chief’s war shield could influence the tribal decision making, and what was in the Hopi priest’s

Zhuo was making numerous trips to the Indian reservations. He had made several friends among

the camp Elders, and was invited into their lodges where they shared stories of the long ago people.

mind when he was holding the snake by one hand and holding an eagle feather to calm the snake

He was invited to many of their spiritual ceremonies and they held him in high regard for telling the

down with his other hand. Many other questions arose in my head after reading more about this

stories of their people, an honor which he cherishes.

history. For instance, how did the elders and the children survive in the harsh winter when they ran

out of food? I am greatly intrigued as to how the Indian people fought to keep their way of life and

In 2005, I presented Zhuo’s work to the Masters of the American West Committee and they unani-

mously agreed to invite him to participate in the 2006 Masters event at the Autry National Center. The

their freedom, and because of this, I have so much respect for them. My mind travels back in history

inclusion of his work at the Masters of the American West provided Zhuo S. Liang with the credibility

with endless thoughts that stimulate my imagination. Re-creating the past into tangible visions on

and exposure to launch his career. He has taken this opportunity seriously and in just these few years

canvas gives me great joy and a fulfilling excitement.

has been catapulted into the center of the Western Art world. He has clearly struck a chord with collec-

tors and he is creating timeless historical narratives that will resonate for years to come.

in the history of American Indians, and at the same time enjoy them as works of fine art.

Zhuo S. Liang states that early in his career one of the most important influences on his art was

I hope that when people look at the paintings in this book, they can sense a certain truth Z.S. Liang, 2014

the master artist and storyteller, Howard Terpning, who has not only been an inspiration but has personally encouraged and counseled Zhuo, an honor he will never forget. Now, his art is shown alongside that of this great master and many other artists that he has admired for years. Zhuo has been presented with nearly every award possible from the Masters of the American West Exhibition, culminating with the prestigious 2012 Purchase Award for Rejecting the Metal Shield, Fort Mackenzie, 1835, which will remain in the permanent collection of the Autry National Center.

Written with deep respect and admiration, his friend, John Geraghty



the Western narratives of artist Z. S. liang F

ar out on a sage and short grass prairie in north-central Montana, where time and the wind have worked their ceaseless seasonal chores, two artists make their way down off a high butte.

The middle butte of three on the southern flank of the Little Rockies, the “hairy cap” has served as a vantage point for many of the Indian tribes who occupied these lands since pre-history. Passing through a cluster of stone tipi rings upon its shoulder, the men spook a little band of grazing antelope. Watching them quickly disappear into the broken hills around them, the two artists pause to view the tracks lying exposed amid the gumbo mud and hardpan of an eroded washout. One spies a large yellowed bone protruding from low in the clay bank and after a bit of digging, it proves to be a buffalo skull cap!

Zhuo and I return often to lands of big open places, like the Two Medicine buffalo jump. We

have summited Chief Mountain, explored the Missouri Breaks, and hiked to the actual Lewis and Clark Expedition fight site with the Blackfeet, just to name a few. We have traveled to these places because they have changed little since the buffalo days. We’ve come to learn, to fill our senses and our mind’s eye with all that comes from such personal experience. Combined with the study of historical journals and ethnology, this travel is vitally important to the process of recording and giving expression to the Indian people whose cultures were shaped by the vast ocean of grass, its mountains, rivers, and animals. As a native of the western heritage of Montana, my passion for its “first people” inhabitants and the diverse cavalcade that followed, comes more naturally. Zhuo Shu Liang’s love affair with the West has a very different story that involves the tenacious surmounting of numerous obstacles.

He made his first trip to my studio in

the summer of 2004. It proved to be a very Sarah Liang

fortunate and beneficial meeting for both of us that included several days of book study, model sessions, discussion and discovery. From the beginning it was evident that

The artist in his studio.


Observers Above Fort Phil Kearny, 1868, 2013, oil, 42"h x 32"w



Zhuo and I were invited to visit the private ranch where the actual Meriwether Lewis Fight Site is located near Two Medicine River in Montana.

this man held a special feeling of kinship for the American Indian people, a keen interest in all aspects of their culture John Coleman

and humanity, and a strong desire to express the simplicity, power and beauty of their daily existence. This is all wonderfully displayed in the masterful paintings presented in this book.

Today, our mutual interests have created a special friendship, one of study, painting, model

sessions and stimulating adventures afield. For me, it is truly a treasured blessing. So, we will return again to those wild places where history whispers her secrets. Places with wide views that speak eloquently of timelessness and those that are closer at hand, like antelope tracks and buffalo bones. These tell a more intimate and individual story. All together, it is a colorful narrative whose pages move more easily now from past to present. I look forward to going back again, each of us making new tracks along old trails.

Tom Saubert, Kalispell, Montana


Strength of Purpose, 2013, oil, 50"h x 28"w In 1866, the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho hostility toward white encroachment into their territorial lands and buffalo range was at a fever pitch. The American government planned to build a string of military posts from Fort Laramie north into Montana for the protection of settlers and gold seekers traveling on the road called the Bozeman Trail. The Indians formed a united front, allying several bands from three separate tribes, determined to instigate as much resistance as they could. Much of their ferocious aggression was directed toward Fort Phil Kearny, situated near the heart of the Sioux lands. From 1866, until the signing of the Treaty of Laramie in 1868, their opposition was furious and unrelenting. In the spring of 1868, the Treaty was negotiated by Red Cloud with the United States. It successfully granted every concession demanded by the great chief, which made it the only treaty in U.S. history where all concessions were agreed upon and none given in return.

Looking down from a hilly vantage point near Fort Phil Kearny, a Sioux war chief in battle dress surveys

the field before planning an assault upon the fortification’s defenders.



Chapter 1

Hunter-Gatherers and Indian Traders



P re v ious page

Solitary Hunter, 2005, oil, 36"h x 54"w The concepts of self-sufficiency and solitude, commonplace in the lives of the American Indian, are profoundly intriguing to Zhuo. When he considers their many hardships, and the instability of their wild environment, his imagination is engaged with numerous themes upon which to build painting ideas. The lone hunter as a true son of Mother Nature, pitting himself against the odds, is a powerful and fascinating story, especially when told by Z.S. Liang. Not only is the hunter faced with the constant and often desperate task of providing for his family and tribe, but he also must be proficient in the complicated fabrication of the weapons and tools vital to the hunt. Skill and inventive creativity were very much a part of all that these people did and in this painting they are symbolized by the canoe, the bow, and the hammered copper earring worn by this resolute hunter.

Sweet Water, 2004, oil, 30"h x 40"w While traveling through part of the Eastern coastal woodlands, Zhuo came across a classic stony brook. A small clearing by the stream’s edge captured his attention and in his mind’s eye, he saw the scene that became this painting.



The Hunter, 2007, oil, 46"h x 30"w In this dramatic portrayal, a Wampanoag hunter faces the angry charge of a black bear with only his bow for protection. If he is to survive uninjured, his best chance is to make the first arrow a fatal shot!

Notice how the painting is built upon the strong dark shadow shape to the right of the figure.

His bow defines the compositional movement down to the left leg, then continues to network the rock crevice shapes that point up to the right leg. This design movement continues with the subtle directionals of the rock seams behind the figure, leading to the man’s arrow quiver and head, thus encircling the figure and completing the strong and effective oval design.

Turtle shell medicine pouch



Bison Hunting, 2005, oil, 50"h x 70"w No matter the tribe of buffalo hunters, they all placed an exceedingly high value upon their “buffalo runners,” horses that were carefully selected and trained to run close beside a running buffalo. Horses not trained for the buffalo chase were incapable of such action. After a herd was located, each hunter would ride out on a common horse and would lead his buffalo runner, saving the runner’s energy for the race. The common horses would be used as packhorses by the women and boys who followed behind. What a scene would then unfold, wild men on wild-eyed horses pursuing wild meat! Riders and bison raced over the open ground at breakneck speeds that left the air dense and pungent with the scent of earth and herb churned by driving hooves. Galloping, with the sound of cloven dew claws rattling, their lungs hungry for the oxygen needed to fuel success or escape, this cacophonous hunting pageant of men and buffalo has rumbled out of the past and into this painting.



Hunting the Timber Edge, 2009, oil, 36"h x 24"w It is the moon of falling leaves and getting colder here in the Big Snowy Mountains at the head of Swimming Woman Creek. As the day turns toward evening, the game animals that have sought the shelter of the deep timber will begin to emerge toward feeding areas along the timber edges that open into glades and grassy meadows. For the hunter on foot this provides the perfect location to hunt the deer, elk, or moose that may venture out to feed as shadows lengthen into dusk north of the Mussellshell.

following page

Assiniboine Hunters, 2010, oil, 34"h x 50"w The Assiniboine Tribe was a hunting-gathering people whose range encompassed the prairie lands between the Saskatchewan River in the north to the Missouri River in the south. “The Stone Boilers,” or “People of the White Clay,” as they called themselves, were an early offshoot of the Sioux as their dialect confirms. They were relatively horse poor, which contributed to their daring as cunning horse thieves, especially against their avowed enemy, the Blackfeet Nation. Their surprise winter horse-stealing raids were legendary.

In this painting, the artist applies the use of varied warm and cool grays upon a solid design

of positive and negative shapes that gives us a glimpse into a harsh winter season. Assiniboine hunters stop to warm themselves and rest, having failed to find game during a morning search down Otter Robe coulee. The one possessing “badger medicine” sees movement at the distant timber edge. Perhaps luck may yet turn in their favor!

Primitive stone knife and case







pre v ious page

following page

Trading with the Blackfeet, Montana Territory, 1860

Pueblo Street Market, 1920s 2006, oil, 46"h x 64"w

2008, oil, 46"h x 76"w In 1926, the old Beale Wagon Road The fur trade exploded in the United

became the national highway then

States with the epic opening of the

known as Route 66. The Fred Harvey

Western lands by the two intrepid

Company of Indian Traders provided an

captains of the Lewis and Clark Expedi-

easier and more adventurous way to visit

tion. Beaver skin was like gold at the

the homeland of the Pueblo people by

time and a lively yet hazardous trading

traveling along this road. Unique jewelry

business ensued. It grew ever deeper into the Indian lands along river routes where

Pencil sketch on paper, 5"h x 8"w

and pottery of exceptional manufacture were the predominant art forms of the

strategically placed forts plied the trade

Pueblo. The legacy of Pueblo pottery

to peoples eager to better their hard lives

began centuries earlier, probably with

through new weapons, tools, and finery.

the Anasazi. From Taos to Laguna,

For the fur companies, who employed

Acoma and Zuni, each Pueblo developed

traders bold enough to venture west,

distinct pottery styles and decorative

the trade for beaver and fine furs proved


immensely lucrative until beaver was

no longer the primary prey. Beaver was

Zuni “deer-in-the-house” motif appears.

replaced in the 1840s by the buffalo robe

Amid the bustling Zuni street market, a

trade that flourished beyond the bounds

young elementary school teacher barters

of rivers and mountains, into the entire Western landscape. This trade thrived

Pencil sketch on paper, 14"h x 23"w

In the right foreground, the classic

with a Zuni girl for a pottery owl. Being a teacher and a mother herself, this

until the eventual demise of the buffalo

woman’s expression and gesture reveal

herds in the late 1870s. The era of the great buffalo herds remains a mythic period in western history.

the fond and tender sympathy

she feels for the children.

The narrative of this painting speaks about an Indian trader on friendly terms with a band chief of the

Pencil sketch on paper, 6"h x 9"w

Pencil sketch on paper, 13"h x 19"w

Blackfoot tribe. This trader is married to the chief’s sister so he and his band are well known to this merchant.

Other members of the trader’s entourage have Indian wives, so there is a familiar atmosphere of friendship

intrigued with the progressive history, style variety, location and beauty of Pueblo pottery. That appreciation

and mutual trust in this scene. Trading events usually took place at heavily guarded forts or trading posts,

served as the motivation and inspiration for this painting.

On a trip to Zuni to experience the location, and for further study of the tribal history, the artist became

but because of these relationships the atmosphere here is more intimate. As the September sun warms the morning, trading begins upon this bright, river bottom stage near the foot of the Rocky Mountains. It will be a fine and profitable day for all.



Chapter 2

Defenders of land and lifestyle



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