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 Frank Fredrick Polk  (1908 - 2000)

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Lived/Active: Arizona      Known for: sculptor-western subjects, wood carver

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Louisville, Kentucky to parents Frank and Rose Herman Polk, Frank Polk was a self-taught wood carver who became known as the "cowboy whittler" for his carving of rodeo and cowboy scenes in basswood.  In the mid 1960s, he began sculpting in wax and then bronzing his pieces.  Of his work, he said:  "I am overly precise on authenticity and action, having experienced most of my themes, or at least seen them firsthand.  (Samuels 412)

With his family, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1911 when he was three years old, and at age 10, entered his first rodeo.  His family later moved to Mayer near Prescott where he graduated from high school.  As a teenager, he toured the rodeos around Phoenix with a trained burro, having begun to rodeo at age ten when he performed at Prescott with the burro.  He continued the act for 20 years.   He also worked a variety of jobs including as a radio showman, a singing cowboy; stunt man in the movies, dude wrangler and as an Arizona ranch hand "when there was no fencing and the cattle were wild" (Samuels 412).

When he was age sixteen, he walked into the Palace Bar on Whiskey Row to talk to Clyde Miller of the Yolo outfit at Camp Wood.  Miller immediately hired him, which started his 'cowboying' days.  Mr. Polk later wrote in his 1978 autobiography, F-F-F-Frank Polk  that "When I was a kid I pretty much thought that if a guy wasn't a cowboy he just didn't amount to doodley-nothin'."

He spent time dude wrangling at the Grand Canyon and Rainbow Bridge, rode rodeos, and worked as a cowboy throughout Arizona and Nevada.  In 1929, he went to Hollywood, and worked in many movies, including Cimmaron, Beau Geste, and Indian Love Call.

Polk also had a wood-carving store in Reno, Nevada where he lived briefly, but his friend Prescott friend, George Phippen, got him interested in casting figures in bronze.   Polk had a period of life he referred to as his "drinking years", and during this time along 'Whiskey Row' in Prescott, he sold his wood carvings and bronzes, which were usually cowboy figures or one-armed bandits.

In 1946, Polk was voted the best all-around Arizona cowboy, and in 1967, he was elected to the artists group, Cowboy Artists of America.

He died in Prescott Valley on April 22, 2000 at age 91.


Sources include:
Peggy and Harold Samuels, Contemporary Western Artists
Daily Courier, Prescott Valley, Arizona newspaper.  April 2000, courtesy Chris Shattuck.

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