Set of Eugene Standingbear Self-portrait Sketches
Based on a photograph of Eugene Standingbear published in the University of Northern Colorado News in July 1979, it is believed that this set of five sketches are different versions of self-portraits of Mr. Standingbear. In the News photo the subject wears a choker around his neck that is identical to the one pictured in the 2014.31.12.1 pencil sketch. The choker is present, but slightly modified in the other sketches. Additionally, the individual only has his left ponytail wrapped in all four sketches. Another commonality among three of the four sketches is a single eagle feather attached to a medicine wheel hair ornament to the right of the individual's hair part. The choker, medicine wheel hair ornament, a roach hair ornament in the .4 sketch all are more contemporary adornments not seen in any of the other sketches Mr. Standingbear has made from historical photographs leading us to speculate that the subject would more likely be a contemporary individual. Also, many of the physical features of the individual rendered in these sketches very much resemble those seen in the News photograph of Standingbear. (Please refer to the individual records for each sketch to compare the News photograph with the subjects of those sketches.) Eugene Standingbear was a man divided by his Native American ancestry and the modern Anglo world in which he lived. In a drawing titled "Chief", Eugene Standingbear illustrates this circumstance by portraying himself as half Anglo and half American Indian. He is split down the middle: one half depicted in an Anglo man's suit, while he wears traditional Indian clothing in the other half. Again in this sketch, the choker is depicted and his left ponytail is wrapped in fur as depicted in all of these sketches.
Born in 1906 (died 1980), Eugene Standingbear was the son of Luther Standingbear (1868-1939) and Laura Cloud Shield. An Oglala Sioux, he grew up on the Indian reservation at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. In his youth he traveled with his parents in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and in the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Show. He went on to work as a barnstormer, a mechanical engineer with the U.S. Navy in the Puget Sound Naval Area, a miner, cab driver and a musician. He also worked in Hollywood including as a medicine man in "Grizzly Adams." He eventually settled in Roggen/Keensburg, Colorado, where he met the donor's family.
A a self-taught artist, Eugene Standingbear's art was done in reaction to the images he saw of American Indians growing up. According to the artist he was "saddened by the cheap, inaccurate imitations of the Indian as depicted in the movies, in books, in art and on television." In his art Eugene Standingbear portrayed what he believed to be a more accurate depiction of Sioux life. The drawings in this collection include Anglo subjects, American Indians, Asian subjects and personal drawings including the artist's Christmas designs. The work represents not only Standingbear the artist but also the complex identity of the man, living in both the Anglo world and American Indian world. In addition to the drawings in this collection, he also did original paintings and prints.
, Per close friends Fred and Deb Becker, Standingbear had in his possession two books that he used as a reference for many of his drawings: 1. Curtis Western Indians 2. The Great Chiefs (Old West Time-Life Series), "In January of 2014, History Colorado received over 300 drawings by Eugene George Standingbear. A gift to Jennifer Okada from the artist in the mid-1970s, the Okada family met Eugene Standingbear in Keenesburg, Colorado in the early 1960s. Jennifer’s parents—Isamu “Sam” and Katsumi “Katsie” Okada—owned a pharmacy across the street from a bar Eugene worked at. Over many years Eugene and the Okada family established a strong bond as reflected in the time Eugene and the Okada family spent together; Eugene’s own artwork which includes images of Japanese culture ; the Okada family’s desire to donate the drawings, recognizing the significance of Eugene’s family in U.S. history; the fact that Eugene named Sam the executor of his estate; and acknowledgement by the Standing Bear family of the strong friendship between Eugene and Sam. The exact reason for the strong bond between Eugene Standingbear and the Okada family is unknown; however, it appears that in part, these families were connected by similar life changing experiences, occurring over generations, and affected by race." From Between Two Worlds: The Life and Art of Eugene Standingbear, Alisa Zahller
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