Photography
© Ely Abrums and Laura Walker

Woody Big Bow

BIG BOW, WOODROW WILSON (1914–1998).

A Kiowa artist and grandson of a Kiowa chief, Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Big Bow was born in Carnegie, Oklahoma, on January 29, 1914. As a teenager he attended classes at the University of Oklahoma at Norman, and under the personal guidance of Oscar B. Jacobson he took advantage of the opportunity to receive instruction in painting. At the university he was one of several young Kiowa artists whose work was featured in exhibitions in Europe and subsequently published in folio editions of American Indian art, the first of their kind ever issued.

Big Bow graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1939 and afterward worked variously as a set painter for Western films and as a builder and contractor. He also produced mural decorations for the RCA Building in New York City and the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles. During World War II he designed the red and yellow Thunderbird insignia for Oklahoma’s famed Forty-fifth Infantry Division.

Big Bow lived in Yukon in later years, exhibiting widely before his death in 1998. His work can be seen in a number of public collections, including the Gilcrease and Philbrook museums in Tulsa, the Oklahoma Historical Society in Oklahoma City, the University of Oklahoma Museum of Art at Norman, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., the Heritage Center at the Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and the Wichita Art Museum in Wichita, Kansas

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