Frank Big Bear grew up on and around the White Earth Reservation. He has lived in Minneapolis since 1968. For decades, Big Bear drove cab while raising his family and creating his art. He received the 2008 Bush Foundation Enduring Vision Award as well as the Bush Artist Fellowship Award in 1998 and 1986. He has shown at the Tweed Museum, Dultuh; Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe; The Plains Art Museum, Fargo; Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis.
His detailed and vibrant colored pencil drawings depict fantastic figures in wild and disjointed scenes. Big Bear is enormously prolific and paints as well, creating stylized portraits often composed of the same colored shapes in mosaic that mark his style in both mediums. The humans, animals, and supernatural figures in Big Bear’s art portray a world teeming with activity and intent. Honed over decades, his personal vision and artistic commitment are revealed in every work.
For a long time, I might be drawing some scene from history, and [my father's] face would appear,” wrote Big Bear of this shift. “After he died in 1992, that image disappeared.” He turned his face to his own life in a new way. “Now when I draw my daughters, it's almost like drawing myself,” he writes. “I think my portraits have a spiritual quality to them, but are also psychological profiles and hybrids of several people, including the artist. Frank Big Bear