University Museums

Title: And Then There Were Five
Name: Painting
Date: 1981
Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Country/Culture: Native American
Dimensions: 80 3/4 x 97 1/4 in. (205.1 x 247 cm)
Marks: None
Classification: Paintings
Credit Line: Gift of the artist. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: UM82.7
More Information
Although he did not choose to orient his training toward native art, the Iroquois heritage of George C. Longfish has been a major influence in his work. Born of Seneca/Tuscarora parents in 1942 in Osweken, Ontario, Canada, Longfish went on to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. As he looked into the history of Native Americans, he was most attracted to the ancient art, which he found more honest than contemporary American Indian art. As an artist, he tries to combine the ancient native abstract symbols with modern concepts of painting, as seen in this work of art.

And Then There Were Five is filled with symbolism representing the relationship between the history of the Native Americans and today’s environment. It is a warning with hope, comparing the fragility of native cultures with nature, but reminding the viewer that what still exists can be saved. It shows that humans, however, can be dangerous, as depicted by the tractor tire marks running through the center of the painting and the polluted waters at the base, but not always ruthless. Remnants of the past, depicted by the horse tracks and other Native American imagery, suggest optimism, as does the gold lining of the otherwise ominous pink and gray cloud.