Photography
© Ely Abrums and Laura Walker

Jean Bales (1946 – 2004)

Jean Bales was well known for her paintings depicting the traditional life of Iowa Indian women, her affiliated tribe.

In 1967 she received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts; she also studied at the Institute of San Miguel Allende. She taught crafts at a school in Fort Sill run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, also taking up a history course when its teacher resigned. This led her to a renewed interest in her heritage, and after a year she resigned to become a full-time artist. During her career Bales, who signed her work “J. Bales” so as to hide her gender, served as the official historian of the Iowa tribe, and won over one hundred awards for her work from various entities.

Her works have been included in such noted private collections as the late artist, Helen Hardin, as well as such prominent institutional collections as the Vatican in Rome. She has been exhibited in major museums, including the Heard Museum (Phoenix, AZ), the Wheelright Museum (Santa Fe, NM), and the Southern Plains Indian Museum (Anadarko, OK).

She was 1984 IACA Artist of the Year. She was living and working in Oklahoma at the time of her death.

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