Publication Date

Fall 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Jane Rhoades Hudak, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Arthur Bourgeois, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Javier Chavira, M.F.A.


The owl has been a symbol for the Americas, as well as the rest of the world since people could write. It is a symbol with many meanings to Native Americans, from guardian to an omen of approaching death; the owl’s presence could be both a blessing and a curse. As western society spread American artists used the owl as a symbol in folk and fine art. Artists like John James Audubon and Alexander Wilson depicted owls in their work to create a visual awareness and to promote the advancement of scientific understanding. During the twentieth century, Joseph Cornell and other artists thrust the owl’s image back into the public eye. This paper will compare the early works of owls by Native American Tribes, to that by some of the more recent American artists. The focus will be mainly on creating an understanding of the symbolism associated with the owl’s image through the work of North American artists and artisans.