The Water Bird Gallery, located on 6th Street in Pawhuska, featured a visit from Native American artist Dana Tiger at its Christmas season open house.


Numerous of Tiger’s paintings were on display for the event, and the artist was on-hand to visit with guests. In addition to being a well-known artist, Tiger is the daughter, mother and grandmother of artists. Her work is known for her depictions of strong Native American women, and Tiger is an honoree of the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame.


Tiger explained that she resisted what became her life’s work until after her college years.


“I fought it. I didn’t want to be an artist,” she told the Journal-Capital. Tiger is the daughter of Jerome Tiger, a prolific young painter who died at the age of 26, when Dana was just five years old. Her father’s art became important to Dana as a way to know him.


Once Dana Tiger decided to embrace her artistic talent, she devoted herself to her craft.


“I started doing art every day and never looked back,” she said. That was more than three decades ago. She commented that art came naturally and easily to her father, who pioneered a style of Native American art characterized by flowing movement and pastel colors.


“I had to work at it,” Tiger said, but she also noted that her son, Coleman Lisan Tiger Blair, finds his way as an artist with an apparent naturalness and ease that reminds her of her father.


The most recent addition to the family line of artists is Dana’s grandson, Aiden, who sold his first painting at the age of three years, she said. Aiden is the son of Dana’s daughter, Christie. The family has a gallery, Tiger Art Gallery, in Muskogee.


While it might seem perfectly obvious, in retrospect, that Dana Tiger would probably become an artist, she said that her peers in junior high school and high school might have been more likely to know her as an arm wrestler.


Johnny Tiger Jr., the uncle who taught Dana and her siblings to paint after their father died, also taught her to arm wrestle, she said.


“To win,” she said, when asked what, in particular, her uncle taught her.


Dana did win, and traveled to Las Vegas and other destinations to take part in arm wrestling competitions.


“I don’t know how much money I could have made at that, but I have a lot of trophies,” she said — which is something you would be unlikely to guess about the painter and grandmother and advocate for women who visits with guests while gracefully struggling with the Parkinson’s disease she has battled for two decades now — all with a ready smile and a kind word.