Cycle of Life, circa 1965.
Frank Day (Konkow Maidu, 1902–1976)
Oil on board, 23 3/4 x 29 7/8 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of the Aeschliman McGreal Collection, 2017.62.5.

It was from his father, a leader of the Bald Rock Konkow Maidu, and other elders, that Frank Day learned traditional songs and language. After the death of his father and a decade of travel, he returned to California, where he worked as an agricultural laborer. After a serious injury in 1960, he turned to painting as a form of therapy.

Day became a key figure in the California Indian art movement that gained momentum in the late 1960s, creating more than 200 oil paintings related to the Maidu’s cultural legacy. He was also a major inspiration for the Maidu traditional dance group at Pacific Western Traders in Folsom in 1973 — a group that influenced artists like Frank LePena and Harry Fonseca.

This painting shows natural recycling: The fallen log provides a rich source of nutrients for mushrooms, which in turn provide nourishment for the man who gathers them. Ants crawl on the pile of sawdust in the lower left corner, demonstrating that the fallen log is also important to the life cycle.

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