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 William Sitting Bull  (1956 - )

About: William Sitting Bull


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Lived/Active: South Dakota      Known for: Indian figure, genre, history and animal painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The great, great grandson of Chief Sitting Bull, who led the defeat of General George Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876, William Sitting Bull is an artist whose work reflects his Ogalala Sioux heritage.  He says:  "The spiritual legacy of being a direct descendant of Sitting Bull has inspired me to paint my people of the past and present.  Not as fairy-tale images, but what's going on in their eyes, pores of skin, all over.  Paintings that make my people want to talk to me." (75)

Acrylic is the medium he prefers for his paintings of Indian figures in ritual regalia, animals in landscape and solitary figures such as a General Custer before the battle with a backdrop of symbolism.

Sitting Bull was born into a family of 13 children on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.  When he was seven, his father was murdered, and the mother sent her son to a foster family in Idaho.  He was given the name of William Stewart and placed with a Catholic family. The change in lifestyle from his Indian reservation life to a middle class white family was shocking to him, but he stayed with it for several years, returning to his mother during the summers.  He credits her with encouraging his art talent, something he pursued as an interior design student at Brigham Young University in Utah.  Upon graduation, he moved to Chicago where he spent two years and then became a teacher of architecture at ITT Technical Institute in Seattle.

In 2001, he returned to the South Dakota, having suffered the trauma of his wife leaving him.  Determining that what he wanted more than anything in life was to be a serious artist, he dedicated his energy and talent to painting.  His mother died, but in her honor for the first few years he painted with her name, American Bear.  Then in 2003, the elders of the Rosebud Indian Reservation said they wanted to have a naming ceremony for him and that because he was portraying his people in such a positive way, he would be named Sitting Bull.

In 2007, he gained gallery representation in Cheyenne, Wyoming and also married Bonnie Fulford, a sculptor.  For him, his life had turned around in a fulfilling way.

Judy Archibald, "William Sitting Bull:  Painter of His People", Wildlife Art, May 2008, p. 74

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