Leatrice Mikkelsen was a Diné (Navajo) and Wyandotte painter and mixed media artist and activist. As a young child while her parents worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, her family travelled and lived on many Native reservations. During WWI, they stayed on the Gila River and Colorado River Indian Reservations which were being used as Japanese Internment camps.
Her Native heritage and her early experiences living on the various Native reservations alongside the internment camps deeply influenced her work. She was also influenced by Karuk painter Clara Barney, Pomo basket weaver Mabel McKay, Japanese brushwork artist Kazuaki Tanahashi, and surrealist painters such as Max Ernst and Paul Klee.
Leatrice received her B.A. in Art from Dominican College and her Master of Fine Art from San Francisco State. In the 1960’s, she was the art director at the American Indian Historical Society and art editor of the Native Historian. Locally she made an impact by being instrumental in the creation of the Native American Studies program at College of Marin. She was the first Native person to serve on the board of the Marin Housing Authority. Her larger mission was to reclaim and amplify Native voices, and to dispel the distorted views of colonist and Native histories perpetuated in the education system.
In 1975, she was recognized by the office of the California Governor’s office as “One of California’s well-known native American artists.”
Leatrice exhibited extensively throughout the United States. In October, her work will be part of a large group show at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, an expansion of the SFSU exhibit When I Remember I See Red.