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Female Figure / Woody Big Bow, January 29, 1915 - July 10, 1988, Native American; Kiowa (Artist)

Essay/Description

Kiowa (Cáuigù)1 artist Woody Big Bow’s Female Figure, painted in the Kiowa Style,2 celebrates the everyday experience of early twentieth-century Indigenous women. The doll-like figure here carries a woven basket as she carefully traverses a stony landscape dotted with tufts of wild grasses. Her black and red velveteen Woodlands-style moccasins have a puckered toe and are decorated with white beadwork. The linework in the tips of her long black braids is echoed in the linework on the edge of her shawl as well as the patches of buffalo grass, creating a balanced composition.

From the 1920s through the 1950s, many Indigenous artists painted subjects that would be popular with the tourist art market. Big Bow’s decision to depict an ordinary domestic moment—a woman, perhaps gathering herbs or other plants—amplifies its importance as a source of meaning and memory.

Big Bow first studied art at the University of Oklahoma with Professor Oscar Jacobson, who was an important supporter of Native American arts and the Kiowa Six, an artist collective under his tutelage.

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

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1 Cáuigù is the correct identity used by the Kiowa Tribe.
2 The early twentieth-century artist collective called the Kiowa Six (first known as the Kiowa Five) at the University of Oklahoma birthed an Indigenous art movement known as the Kiowa Style of painting, also called Oklahoma Style and Flatstyle, which is characterized by a lack of figural shading, and backgrounds that have a shallow or indistinguishable depth of field. The Kiowa Six artists were Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Lois Smokey, and Monroe Tsatoke, and all are represented in the Gilcrease collection.

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Title(s): 
Female Figure
Creator(s): 
Woody Big Bow, January 29, 1915 - July 10, 1988, Native American; Kiowa (Artist)
Culture: 
Native American; Kiowa
Date: 
mid-20th century
Materials/Techniques: 
tempera on mat board
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
02.386
Previous Number(s): 
0227.386; 25890
Department: 
Signed by hand in tempera, "Big Bow" in lower right on recto.
Not On View

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