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Arts & Culture

New Book Showcases Artist Dave Paulley's Wyoming Paintings, Celebrates History, Centennial

Four horses with soldiers are standing in a valley of wildflowers. The men are picking up the flowers. Trees and more men in the background.
Wyoming State Historical Society
Custer's Troops in Floral Valley, July 1874 by Dave Paulley

1989 was Wyoming's centennial. To honor that, the late artist Dave Paulley was commissioned to create paintings. This year, the Wyoming State Historical Society decided to put them in a book alongside narratives that explain that moment in history.

Wyoming History in Art was released as part of its fundraising arm.

Historian Jeremy Johnston wrote the narratives that go alongside the paintings. He said it was challenging as the scenes really focus on the accomplishments of Euro-American settlers in Wyoming.

"One thing I wanted to make sure of in the essays is while people were looking at these depictions of significant accomplishments, there was also a downside to this, to the cultures, the Indigenous people that resided here in Wyoming for thousands of years before," he said.

Johnston said an example of this is a painting that depicts Custer's men picking flowers in a valley.

"This is one of those key events that contributed to the death of a lot of the men who were picking those flowers that day, at the Battle of Little Bighorn," said Johnston. "And it's also for the American Indians, for the Lakota especially, an event that eventually led to the Black Hills being stripped away from this holy, spiritual place that they had a long connection to."

Johnston said it's important to tell the complex historical moments behind these paintings.

Only a handful of the book's paintings have been seen widely by the public. All proceeds from its sales will help fund the preservation of the state's history. To purchase a book call 307-322-3014 or email linda@wyshs.org.

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