Maynard Dixon (1875-1946), Sketch for Medicine Woman, 1909, oil on canvasboard, 10 5/8 x 8 5/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, 1937.
March is Women’s History Month! The 2022 theme is “Women Providing Healing, Providing Hope.” For many Indigenous tribes, health is associated with the harmonious relationship between mind, body, and spirit. Sickness and disease arise when these elements and a person’s connectedness to community and the universe become misaligned. It is the duty of the Medicine Woman (or Man) to have deep knowledge of herbal remedies and rituals and to hold themselves in harmony with nature, community, and the spiritual realm to facilitate healing. Wrapped in a blanket and facing into the wind, this Native American Medicine Woman stands alone on a rocky outcropping, seemingly engaged in an introspective, meditative moment. Diagonal lines in the brushstrokes of the clouds, vegetation, and figure’s hair create the sense that unseen forces of spirit and earth converge, sweeping through the healer’s body to inform, cleanse, and connect her with her purpose. With her blanket held tightly around her body, this Medicine Woman signals to viewers—and to the group of people waiting in the lower left corner—the personal preparation, strength, and alignment required to fulfill her work. What kind of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual preparation does it take to be a healer? How can you better understand and appreciate the personal sacrifice and preparation of those whose lives are committed to giving healing and hope to others?