T. C. Cannon

Tommy Wayne Cannon (September 27, 1946 – May 8, 1978) was an important Native American artist of the 20th century. An enrolled member of the Kiowa Tribe with Caddo and French descent,[1] he was popularly known as T. C. Cannon.

T. C. Cannon
Self Portrait in the Studio,
1975, oil painting, 72 × 52 in., private collection
Tommy Wayne Cannon

(1946-09-27)September 27, 1946
DiedMay 8, 1978(1978-05-08) (aged 31)
NationalityKiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma (American)
EducationInstitute of American Indian Arts; San Francisco Art Institute; Central State University
Known forpainting, printmaking
MovementNative American art

Early life

Cannon grew up in Zodaltone and Gracemont, Oklahoma. His parents were Walter Cannon (Kiowa) and Minnie Ahdunko Cannon (Caddo). His Kiowa name, Pai-doung-a-day, means "One Who Stands in the Sun."[2] He was exposed to the art of the Kiowa Six, a group of Native American painters who achieved international reputations in the fine art world and who helped developed the Southern Plains-style of painting. Stephen Mopope and Lee Tsatoke Sr. were particularly influential on the young artist.[3]

T. C. Cannon enrolled in the Institute of American Indian Arts of Santa Fe in 1964, where he studied under Fritz Scholder (Luiseño). After graduating from IAIA, he enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute but left after two months and enlisted in the army.[4] As paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, Cannon was sent to Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. During the Tet Offensive, he earned two Bronze Star Medals. He was also inducted into the Black Leggings Society, the traditional Kiowa warriors' society.

Art career

While still stationed in Vietnam, Cannon had a breakthrough in his art career. Rosemary Ellison, curator of the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko, Oklahoma, included him in a major traveling exhibit, Contemporary Southern Plains Indian Art.

In 1972, Cannon and fellow artist Fritz Scholder had a two-man exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution's National Collection of Fine Arts, titled Two American Painters. In this exhibition, Cannon and Scholder subverted visual stereotypes about Native Americans, creating an exploration "in irony and kitsch" which "opened up a new phase of contemporary art".[5] Cannon produced a large body of work over the next six years, in preparation for his first one-man show, scheduled to open at the Aberbach Gallery in New York in October 1978. On May 8 of that year, however, he died in an automobile accident. After a delay, the show opened on December 10, 1979, as T.C. Cannon: A Memorial Exhibition. Featuring 50 works by Cannon, the show travelled to such locations as the Heard Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art, and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.


Cannon painted murals at the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and the Daybreak Star Cultural Center in Seattle, Washington, and the Santa Fe Opera Guild.[6]


Cannon was an artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire; Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado; and the United States National Park Service. In 1988 he was inducted into the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians in Anadarko.[6]


Tommy Wayne Cannon died in an automobile accident southeast of Santa Fe on May 8, 1978.[6]


  1. Frederick 8
  2. Frederick 12
  3. Frederick 16
  4. Frederick 37
  5. Berlo, Janet C.; Phillips, Ruth B. (1998). Native North American Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 225.
  6. Lester 95.


  • Ellison, Rosemary (1969), "Contemporary Southern Plains Indian Art," Anadarko: Oklahoma Indian Arts and Crafts Cooperative.
  • Frederick, Joan (1995), T. C. Cannon: He Stood in the Sun, Flagstaff, Arizona: Northland Publishing. ISBN 0-87358-603-4.
  • Lester, Patrick D. (1995), The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-9936-9
  • Wallo, William (1990), T. C. Cannon: Native American (A New View of the West). Oklahoma City: The National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
  • Marshall, Ann E. (2017), Of God and Mortal Men: T.C. Cannon, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, NM, (October, 2017), ISBN 0890136289

Further reading

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