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Woody Big Bow

“Woody” Big Bow was named after the sitting United States President at the time of his birth, Woodrow Wilson. Big Bow’s grandfather, Tse-ko-yate was chief of the Kiowa tribe and also an artist. He passed that love of art and tribal tradition to his grandson. His great grandfather, Chief Big Bow, convinced the leaders of several Kiowa bands to come to Fort Sill for peace negotiations. He is credited with bringing peace to the Plains.

Woody attended classes at the University of Oklahoma and studied with Oscar Jacobson. During his time at OU, his work was featured in European exhibitions and later published in folio editions of Native American art. He graduated from OU in 1939.

He held a variety of jobs during his life, including working as a builder and contractor in Oklahoma City. He worked as a set painter for western films and painted murals inside the RCA Building in New York City and the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles. In 1944, the Oklahoma City Junior Chamber of Commerce provided funding for Big Bow to duplicate the RCA Building murals in the game room of the USO Center in Oklahoma City. He also painted murals at Springlake Amusement Park in Oklahoma City after fire repairs in 1947. His work is included in the RCA Building in New York City, the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, the Gilcrease Museum, and the Kimball Museum in Fort Worth.

Woody Big Bow’s pieces in the Oklahoma Judicial Center collection primarily feature blanketed figures facing away from the viewer. They are very similar in tone and style to those he exhibited at the Oklahoma Art Center at the state fairgrounds in July 1968. All of the Big Bow pieces are on permanent loan from the Oklahoma History Center Collection.

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