Tommy Wayne Cannon, a member of the Kiowa tribe also had Caddo and French ancestry. Popularly known as T.C. Cannon, he was one of the most influential, innovative and talented Indigenous American artists of the 20th-century. T.C. Cannon embodied the activism, cultural transition and creative expression that defined America in the 1960s and 1970s. Cannon's work - as an artist, poet and aspiring musician - is deeply personal yet undeniably political, reflecting his cultural heritage, experience as a Vietnam War veteran and the turbulent social and political period during which he worked. Cannon preferred bold color combinations, mash-ups between Native and non-Native elements and never shied away from the complexity and nuance of identity politics. Cannon interrogated American history and popular culture through his Native lens, and exercised a rigorous mastery of Western art historical tropes while creating an entirely fresh visual vocabulary.
Born in Lawton, Oklahoma, Cannon was educated at the renowned Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the San Francisco Art Institute, and Central State University in Edmond, Oklahoma. T.C. Cannon's first major exhibit was at the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Oklahoma. In 1972, the Smithsonian Institute honored Cannon and Fritz Scholder with a two-man show at the National Collection of Fine Arts in Washington D.C. called Two American Painters. Together with Scholder, Cannon subverted visual stereotypes as they related to Indigenous Americans, creating an exploration in irony and kitsch which opened up a new phase in contemporary art, establishing Cannon on the national arena as one of the most eloquent and innovative of Native American artists. In 1975, Cannon became part of the famous artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, and began a plan to collaborate with Japanese master woodcutter, Maeda, and master printer, Uchikawa.