White Buffalo Calf Woman

Connie Seabourn

Artist Connie Seabourn has long been fascinated by religious symbols and stories. “Spirituality frequently shows up in my art works,” she said. The legend of Buffalo Calf Woman also includes a strong female icon as the bearer of a sacred object. “That particular story really appealed to me.”

The Lakota legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman has been handed down from generation to generation for centuries, describing the origin of the sacred pipe. Though variations exist, the story generally begins with two scouts searching for food in a time of famine. On their journey, they encountered a white buffalo that became a beautiful young woman in white clothing. One of the scouts was filled with desire and wanted to claim the woman. The other scout urged caution, saying the figure appeared to be a sacred woman, and touching her would be sacrilegious. His companion would not be deterred and when he approached the woman, a cloud descended. When the cloud disappeared, only a pile of bones remained.

The cautious scout dropped to his knees and began praying. The woman assured him that if he did as instructed, no harm would befall him and his tribe would prosper. She told him to return to his encampment and prepare a feast for her arrival. Four days later, White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared in the village and gave the tribe the sacred pipe, the holiest of all worship symbols. When she left, she promised to return, bringing peace and prosperity.

“A lot of people say that the time of the white buffalo is upon us,” Seabourn said. “Several white buffalo calves have been born in recent years.” It is said this will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.

White Buffalo Calf Woman is a mixed media work that includes watercolor, drawing and collage. The multi-step process began with drawing the figure to collage onto the top center of the piece. Seabourn then used charcoal to write the words of the legend on the canvas. She selected this technique because the story would not exist without the oral tradition of words handed down from person to person. The faint letters evoke the feeling of an ancient legend. “When things are passed down they may become sketchy and we may not get the whole story.”

Seabourn earned a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Oklahoma and a master in education with an emphasis in studio art from the University of Central Oklahoma. Long before that, she watched her father, Bert Seabourn, create many masterpieces. See page 169. “I picked up little lessons and tips growing up,” she said. “Then when I was about 21, I actually studied watercolor with him one night a week for about a year.” In addition to technique and a passion for creativity, Seabourn said she has also been inspired by her father’s work ethic. “He’s always working. Even now, hardly a day goes by that he’s not working on his art.”

Like her father, she enjoys sharing her passion for art with students. She has taught art at Rose State College, the University of Central Oklahoma, John Marshall High School and is currently a faculty member at Harding Fine Arts Academy in Oklahoma City.

Seabourn’s work has been recognized with numerous awards, including those from the Trail of Tears Art Show in Tahlequah, the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee and the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City.

Her paintings have been exhibited at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Man in San Diego and the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Collection of His Excellency Nubuno Matsunaga in Japan. Seabourn has also created book covers and had her work featured in magazines. Walk in Beauty, published in 1993, features watercolors from her first dozen years as a professional full-time artist. White Buffalo Calf Woman was purchased for the Oklahoma Judicial Center Collection.

Source: Personal interview and correspondence, April 23, 2013.