Buffalo at Dawn, Fire, and Ice

Brent Learned

Brent Learned (Haá Naá Jaá Ne-doa – Buffalo Bull Howling) is a contemporary artist who is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. Ties to art and the law are strong in the Learned family. His father, John Learned is an award-winning sculptor. His mother, Juanita Learned was elected Chairperson for Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. He is the grandnephew of Billings Learned Hand, who served as a judge for the United States Court of Appeals from 1939 to 1951. His sister, Lori Learned-Robinson, is a practicing attorney.

From a young age, Learned knew he wanted to be an artist. He grew up seeing his father sculpt and watching Bob Ross paint on public television. He fell into painting at the University of Kansas, where he played basketball on the Jayhawk team, and earned a bachelor of fine arts there. “I love painting – it’s a part of me like breathing.”

Learned’s bold vision of Buffalo at Dawn is a contemporary interpretation of an ancient symbol. “To the Native Americans, the buffalo means life,” he said. The buffalo provided food, fuel and lodging for the Cheyenne, Arapaho and other Plains tribes. Learned’s choices with this painting give it a distinctive look that is truly his own. “I like to use colors that you might not normally associate together.” Learned painted Fire and Ice after attending a Sovereignty Symposium reception honoring presenters, tribal leaders and artists at the Oklahoma Judicial Center in 2012. He said the Buffalo looked lonely in the conference room and needed company. He generously donated a major portion of the cost of the paintings to cure the Buffalo’s loneliness.

Learned’s work is featured in the Smithsonian Institution, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the University of Kansas Art Museum in Lawrence, Kansas as well as the Cheyenne and Arapaho Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma. He also has work in notable private collections, including the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion and the Democratic National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Learned is also active in community organizations and helped curate the Wintercamp show at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. The Wintercamp show offers new artists an opportunity to exhibit their work. He also worked with Dale Chihuly’s team on the Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick Tower installation at the Oklahoma City Art Museum.

Source: Personal interviews and correspondence, March 2011, June 2012, March 2013.