Roy Lichtenstein first contemplated Native American heritage and culture in his American Indian Encounters of the 1950s. The artist’s revision of the topic from the 1980s, titled American Indian Theme series, features simplified pop versions of indigenous motifs and objects.
Executed during his second period of engagement with the topic, Head With Braids from 1980 ponders the representation of one specific Native American artefact. The print depicts a section of a carved faux-wood surface, evoking the shape and appearance of the belly of a totem pole. Dark pigments are used to indicate the depth of the carvings where the tiny square eyes and the downturned mouth sit.
In line with Lichtenstein’s American Indian Theme VI of the same series, the figure is fixed on a white background. The ragged wood is punctured and intertwined by yellow braids poking through it. The rope and the ragged detail in particular are both recurring elements featured in Lichtenstein’s American Indian Theme series.
As opposed to the gouged wooden indentations used in other editions of the series, the particular relief process applied here is intaglio. The technique produces defined but scarce areas of shading. Aquatint was applied in conjunction with the etching, producing areas of tone and texture rather than definite outlines.