One of the most iconic sculptures in the state of Kansas overlooks the Wichita skyline at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers. The “Keeper of the Plains,” by Oklahoma-born artist, sculptor Francis (Blackbear) Bosin, is a dramatic 44-foot tall steel sculpture of an American Indian he created as a gift to the city in 1974.
A new exhibition, featuring some of Bosin’s most recognized works, is currently on view through January 10, 2012 at the Red Earth Museum & Gallery in downtown Oklahoma City.
Bosin, a Kiowa/Comanche born in Anadarko, came to his adopted city of Wichita in 1940 where he began a career as a color separator and plate maker for Western Lithograph and as an illustrator for Boeing Aircraft. Well known for his “Keeper of the Plains” sculpture, Bosin, also known by his Indian name Tsate Kongia, primarily expressed his artistic talents through painting.
Throughout his career Bosin gained nationwide recognition as a traditional painter. He received no formal art training, yet had his first one-man art show in Honolulu while stationed as a Marine on the island during World War II. He combined Oklahoma’s southern plains Kiowa Five technique with surrealism which attributed to his unique, recognizable style.
For most of his adult life Bosin lived and worked in graphic arts in his adopted home of Wichita. Known professionally as Blackbear Bosin, he first received national acclaim in 1955 when National Geographic highlighted his painting Prairie Fire, and in 1965 he was the only Indian artist included in the White House Festival of the Arts.
In 1959 he opened a gallery in Wichita and became an active force in the artistic community. He was founding member of the Mid-America Indian Center, and donated his only sculpture, Keeper of the Plains, to the city.
By the time of his death in 1980 at the age of 59, Bosin had earned a prominent place among American artists for his inventiveness and imagination. His awards include the Waite Phillips Award of the Philbrook Art Center, National American Indian Achievements Award for Visual Arts in Los Angeles, and the A. Price Woodard Brotherhood Award.
The Red Earth Museum & Gallery is open free to the public Monday through Friday and Saturday by appointment at 6 Santa Fe Plaza next to the historic Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City. Visit www.redearth.org or call (405) 427-5228 for additional information. Red Earth, Inc. is a non-profit organization with a mission to promote the rich traditions of American Indian arts and cultures through education, a premier festival, a museum and fine art markets.