TAKING A DEEPER LOOK: MARDON’S “THE BATTLE OF GREASY GRASS” June 6, 2014 by Emily Kassebaum -
The composition of the work presents duration of time by capturing the significant moments between 3 p.m. June 25, 1876, to 3 p.m. June 26, 1876, and frames the expanse of space by reducing the ten mile battleground onto a canvas approximately six feet tall and eleven feet wide.
Mardon spent one year researching the lengthy and controversial history of the Battle of Little Bighorn, taking just as long to paint the work itself. Mardon gathered modern accounts from Native Americans, striving for historical accuracy, and formulated a contemporary composite that includes individuals unrecorded by others like Paxson—Cheyenne witness Kate Bighead, Bismark Tribune reporter Mark Kellogg, and African American scout Isaiah Dorman. Powerfully titled The Battle of Greasy Grass, Mardon reinforces the painting’s Native American perspective by employing the Lakota name for the battle, termed after the “greasy” appearance of the grass in the waters near the battle site.
While Mardon adamantly worked for historical accuracy, it is important to note that The Battle of Greasy Grass is an artistic, rather than literal, representation. Mardon’s eye-catching color highlights the influence of ledger art but also his use of artistic license. He depicts Indian ponies in non-realistic colors to differentiate them from troop horses, while trails of red tracking the path of the troops were used in place of portraying the mutilating and killing effects of weaponry.
"Now, Custer, don't be greedy, but wait for us." General Gibbon "No, I will not." Custer, noon, June 22, 1876 passing in review.