Monday, November 12, 2007

My Father's Love

My Father,sister Fawn and me (1978).

As far as I can remember, my father "Frank Big Bear" was a great inspiration for me growing up. I thought the world of him. Giving us unconditional love no matter how rough it got. We always had our father's attention with love and moral support. Making sure we ate three meals a day. Making sure we were clean along with our clothes. Keeping our visits with the Doctor and dentist. Taking us to the zoos and letting us on some of the rides, such as the Merry- Go -Around. Reading us bedtime stories and being a clown with humor. I believe my father was about twenty-five years old or so. It was very hard on him because he was a single father. To me, he was "Super Dad"

Watching him draw and paint was fascinating to me. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. I wanted to be a great artist and a cab driver. I took to being an artist very well. I decided not to be a cab driver as I saw how much my father was drained and fatigued coming home each night from driving cab. Unfortunately, he was robbed multiple times while on duty. It scared me to lose my father and I was scared away from ever driving cab. Driving cab was a everyday situation just so he could take care of us. I'm still scared to this day for his life and safety. I think he's been driving for thirty years or so. Minneapolis is just too dangerous these days.

He introduced me to the Twin Cities Art Museums. I really took a liking to the Arts right away. I first went to the Institute of Arts in Minneapolis. There was an exhibition going on with knights in beautiful intricate shining armour on fake horses which were also dressed up with armour. I really got scared and ran out of the room the fist time. They reminded me of humanoid robots ready for battle from another planet. I eventually got the courage to go in. After that exhibition, we went home and I made weapons out of scrap wood from the garbage, along with a garbage can lid for a shield. I took some of my father's paint and painted a "Star" on my shield. I was very creative with the little stuff I had. My father was the driving force behind my imagination. He always encouraged my art. Being a good father was very important to him. He knew Fawn and I went through a lot during our times with our mother and foster homes. He wasn't going to let that happen to us again.

My learning disability was a cause for concern when I was in grade school. My father worked with me on my home work and a teacher from school would come in to help me twice a week. My father and teacher were wonderful but both were distracting to me.
Every time I was with my father, all I wanted to do is make art and the teacher was beautiful. She made me blush and giggle when I looked at her. I took a liking to beautiful women ever since. I think the biggest problem was my speech. It was hard for me to say certain words. It bothered me when my teachers didn't understand me.
I believed this went on during grade school and through my early year of high school.

My father struggled to take care of us as a single father for three years. It was when I was eight years old that his alcoholism got the best of him. He was starting to go out to the bars and bring back some of the parties to our home. It reminded me of my mother as she did the same. Fawn and I would wake up two or three in the morning and join the party. Playing and teasing my father's drunk friends. Again, I thought this was a way of life for us. Growing up with alcoholism around us was a typical way of life for us Native American Indians. There were some early mornings when we woke up and saw my father passed out on the couch. I thought it was disturbing and at times funny. I remember one morning I started to sketch him with my color crayons as he was passed out. I would color with my darker crayons and draw flies on him. Fawn was so worried about him all the time. I didn't know what to think. We would carry on with our lives when these days came. Fawn and I pretty much started to take care of ourselves when my father's alcoholism began to get worse. My father was a loving, caring and passionate person. When he was drunk he was even nicer. We rather see him sober. He never abused us. Always being a goof-ball and making sure we were well fed. We just didn't go anywhere fun as much as we used too. My teacher would send notes back with me for my father, stating I needed a bath and some clean clothes. I would never give the notes to my father because I didn't want him to be upset at me. We were starting to become neglected. I believe his parenting skills were starting to fade away with his addiction.

My father eventually gave us up to our grandmother. My father just couldn't take care of us anymore. It was heart breaking at first but the feeling soon faded away with my grandmother's love and attention. I'm sure my father was devastated by this decision, but it was the best for us and he was only three miles away. The cab company where he worked was just one block away from my grandmother's. Which was very convenient. Fawn and I would go wait for him after work so we can see him. My father was still the greatest. He really never went anywhere. I think he just needed some time to deal with himself.

Although my home life growing up with my dad would be considered unconventional, and to some perhaps neglect. To me he is my dad, he fought to get Fawn and I back from our terrible life with our mom and foster homes. We lived on love and survival. Most importantly, love. I'm very thankful and fortunate to have him as my father. He will always be the greatest mentor of all.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Artistic Distraction

I attended pre-school at the age of five years old. This was very traumatic at first for me when my father was dropping Fawn and I off while he went off to work as a cab driver to support our family. This really broke my heart when he left us each day. I thought I wasn't going to see him ever again. Of course he always came back to get us everyday. Fawn was somewhat okay being left alone, she always stared at me when I would cry. I eventually got over it during my pre-school days.

I believe I started kindergarten at age six. I was very shy yet always smiling. My teacher was a very nice woman. I still think of her to this day. We would sing in groups, which we all loved. My favorite was "Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star". I also enjoyed drawing with crayons on paper. I really loved to color. The children would sometimes gather around the table and watch me draw. They thought I was quite the artist. During these times, the kids would argue who would sit next to me. Most of them wanted to color with me. We were so innocent.

It wasn't until the next year during the first grade where I had trouble understanding. Because my artistic imagination was affecting my school work, everything I looked at became a piece of art. The color and designs on my teachers clothing became art. The children's clothing were interesting as well. My school work became art. The letters and numbers were becoming figures and robots. My imagination became out of control. I couldn't focus on my school work. When the teachers were talking to me,all I could hear were mumbles,like the parents on the cartoon "Charlie Brown". My father was called into the school a few times due to this problem. They questioned me of this issue but I was silenced because I couldn't explain what was going on within myself. I was too busy thinking of what to draw and color. This issue went on during my year as a first grader.

When my second year came around. I was still the same but I was a much better artist. My teachers started to notice that I had a gift. But my school work was still being affected. They started to pull me out of class once a day just so I can attend this class for "gifted students". I really don't remember a whole lot about this class,just that we were all considered equal. They were such nice teachers. I made everyone color pencil drawings, even for the other students.

I was held back in the third grade, due to this artistic intuition of mine. I became obsessed with my art. I started to draw on the back page of my school work from different classes. My teachers were concerned and some were upset I was making art instead of learning. Again,I became distracted with the environment around me. Everything was turning into works of art around me. Robots were the main characters of my imagination. Robots shooting each other. Tanks and airplanes. Sometimes, psychedelic colors would come down the wall or shoot across the class with cartoon characters. I could visually see them. I could have been hallucinating, but I know this was my imagination running wild and I couldn't stop it. Due to this process,I became verbally silent. I wouldn't talk to anyone. My grandmother had to come to school and get me to talk. This went on for the rest of the year. My grandmother and teachers could not understand what was going on with me. They thought maybe it was the traumatic situation that Fawn and I had endured during our times with our mother and foster homes, but it wasn't. My imagination went out of control.

That was just the beginning of my artistic imagination.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Meeting James Rosenquist

James Rosenquist & Star Wallowing Bull (2005).

My friend Sandy Ben-Haim had told me an artist by the name of "James Rosenquist" was coming to the Plains Art Museum. She recommended that I come and meet him, which was about a couple of months away. I had never heard of James Rosenquist before.
I thought at first he was an artist from the area. I really didn't give it much thought soon after. I just planned on being there if I wasn't too busy.

As May 2005 came around, so did James. My live-in studio was just across the parking lot from the Museum. I looked out my window as I usually do every morning and saw something going on at the Museum. I didn't pay to much attention to what was going on,so I went upon my regular routine with my color pencil drawings and coffee. Later that morning,I was starting to become hungry. All I had was rice and water. I had a bad habit of eating fast food everyday and not buying groceries. So unhealthy. I had very little money at the time but enough to make it until I get paid again. As I looked out my window again,I remembered,the artist James Rosenquist is at the Museum. This was my chance to meet him and socialize.

I made my way to the museum and walked in. The gathering was on the first floor and they had his art hanging on the back wall of the atrium. Before I approached his work I loaded up my fleece pockets with food, then I walked over to the artwork and was fascinated with his colors and cross hatching lines. I also remembered seeing his work growing up. I just didn't know the name. Another good friend of mine, Rusty Freeman had came over to me and said,"you should meet James". Rusty introduced me to him. He was pleasant to talk with and I could tell right away he had a great knowledge in the arts. We started to talk about art in New York City. I had told him about a documentary I saw of naked people who roll in paint and jump against canvas nailed to the wall. I chuckled about that. James was talking about Pop Art being over with and time for a new art form. He also told me about George Morrison and that they were friends. Rusty had told James I used to run around him when I was a kid. In fact,I use to steal some of George's artistic ideas when I was younger but I didn't tell James that. Before I left,I told him he should come by my studio next door when he's in town again. He wasn't waiting around, he wanted to go now. I felt guilty for a few minutes because he would be leaving everyone behind for awhile because he was the guest of honor. You see James is a native of North Dakota. He was in town to receive his honorary doctorate degree from North Dakota State University.

James and I walked over to my small live-in studio. I noticed he was a fast walker. He walked faster then I did, especially walking up the stairs. I could tell he took great care of his health. I also thought at the time, "What street corner or farm did the Museum find this guy"? At this time, I still didn't know who this guy was. My studio wasn't much at all. It was converted into a studio from a efficiency apartment. As soon as James walked in. He really liked my paintings. He was asking me how much I wanted for the large painting? I said,that painting is not done. James said,it looks done to me! He then proceeded to look at my smaller painting's. How much do you want for that one? I said,that's not done either. The only painting that was completed was an abstract painting of a dog, entitled "Rez Dog". He really wanted it. So I sold it to him. It's strange that nobody liked that painting but me,then James came along and he liked it as well. He also went through my drawing's which were not done but they were very colorful. I told James,I'm not doing too well with my art and I'm struggling. He told me he was once in my shoes and that we have to start somewhere. He told me not to give up and to work hard. My self-esteem greatly increased as a person and as an artist after talking with James.

I wrapped up his "Rez Dog" painting with plastic and walked him back to the Museum. I think we were gone for quite sometime. Sandy was waiting for us with a camera and she took a picture of us. I then faced James shook his hand and said "it was nice to meet you and take care". As I walked away,all I could think about was buying myself a steak dinner and buying more color pencils. James was all but forgotten until later that week when I started to find out from my friends who "James Rosenquist" was. I had no idea of his history and his stature in the art world. A legend on top of all that.

I see Jim Rosenquist the same way I do as I would any other artists. I can't see the famous person he is nor the influence he has in the art world. I see Jim for who he is. Jim has given me hope and he has helped me with so much. Jim has became an inspiration in my life, especially my friend.

I'll never forget Jim for what he has done for me...... Thank you so much Jim.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Wooden Boy

After reuniting with our father in Minneapolis. We were slow to adjust to our new environment. Fawn and I had moved a lot during our young years. It was not good for a child, especially because of the chaos and pain we had endured.

My father was very happy to have us back. It meant the world to him. I was very emotionally scarred and highly sensitive as well. I thought the worst was still yet to come. I was afraid of being taken away or abandoned. I latched on to my father for comfort and safety. I practically smothered my father. I think it bothered him at times. It took awhile for me to adjust to my new life. I was such a quiet little boy. My father had started me drawing on paper at that time. My training had begun in the arts. It was a good outlet for me to express myself or just to doodle.

Fawn was just a happy little girl who was so sweet and innocent. To this day she doesn't remember what had happened to us during our time with our mother or that particular foster home mentioned in a previous blog. In a way,I'm thankful for that. Too much to bare for my little sis. She does remember the elderly couple with great love and respect. For that, I'm thankful.

Around that time, my father had introduced us to a lot of Walt Disney books. I really grew fond of Pinocchio. It was my favorite book. My father would read it to us and I always imagined myself as the wooden Pinocchio. I wanted to be a real boy when I grew up. This story was so real to me, I can somewhat identify with it with my own personal life. I became obsessed with this Pinocchio character. Always talking about him to my father,my relatives and my little friends from the neighborhood. Talking about him as if he was a real live person. Pinocchio became my mentor and my friend.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Foster Homes

My Loving Foster Mother and our First Real Christmas (1977).

Approximately around the year 1976,my sister Fawn and I were taken away from our mother. We were placed in foster care for the next two years. The first foster home was so bad, they might as well thrown us in a prison. We were placed with an African-American family which consisted of a single mother of two and a boy and girl about the same age as us. At first, I didn't know what to think about them. I had never seen a black person before. I stared at them with a curious expression. I kept touching their skin and looking at my fingers to see if the color would rub off. Later these kids became our friends. They were such good kids. The mother on the other hand, was such a terrible mean woman. She didn't want us playing with her children too long so she kept us separate from each other. We were also kept in our rooms most of the time. Our room never had any sun light coming in,just darkness and lit with a bare lightbulb. If we got out of bed or did any little thing wrong, we would get spanked with a ping-pong paddle. That would hurt us so much. We pretty much got hit with it everyday. Fawn and I were very scared of this woman. We endured eight months of isolation and child abuse. The only time we were able to be outside was when the social worker came over to see us. The woman had dressed and cleaned us up.(Obviously just for show for the social worker.) I wanted to say something but I was deadly afraid of this woman. My pleas for help went unheard.

After eight months, we were finally taken to another foster home. This foster home was the best ever! When we first arrived, we were greeted by an elderly man and woman. They were so happy to see us.Of course Fawn and I were silenced by the traumatic situation we had endured. They assured us it was okay. The older man brought me to their back yard and had shown me a lot of toys,especially the plastic indian and cowboy figurines. Inside my little heart, I was a happy little boy again. Fawn was happy too. It was hard to adjust to such a loving family,it took awhile. They gave us three square meals a day, toys,and clean clothes. They took us to church,road trips,fishing,carnivals,zoos and of course they gave us chores to do as well. The one thing I had a big problem with was asking them to use their bathroom. I was so shy and scared to ask them that I would poop and pee in my pants. I think being traumatized by my past experience had something to do with it. They were never mad at me for doing such things. They always encouraged me to ask. I think my foster mother took it very hard and seem to cry at times. I miss and love them very much. It was very hard for us to leave them.

After a year and four months with them. We were taken again,but this time my father, Frank Big Bear, won custody of us to which we were flown back to Minneapolis from Denver. I was five years old and Fawn was four.I remember Fawn and I were looking out the airplane window over Minneapolis and the social worker was telling us,"Your daddy is waiting for you down there". We were so happy! As we were walking down the hallway. We could see our father and we both ran towards him and gave him a big hug at the same time. We became a family again.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Dream - September 11, 2001

Back in May of 2001, I had a very bad dream. The dream took me on a trip to New York City where the skies were covered with the darkest clouds I had ever seen. There were a lot of people running away from something. Some were crying, sad, angry and some were just standing there with no emotion. As I came closer to the source of this chaos, I realized it was the World Trade Centers. They were both on fire with an image of a skull on both towers. The towers were bending like rubber,wobbling from side to side. There was a crazy giant evil monkey jumping from one tower to another repeatedly with human bones falling from the towers. I noticed at the bottom of the towers, there were four black wolves pacing back in forth looking at me with their white glowing eyes. I didn't know if the wolves had something to do with it or if they were guarding it. What ever it was, it wasn't good at all. I soon found myself alone in front of the towers, looking up at them.

That's all I can remember from the dream. I awoke that morning with such deep sadness and grief. It really bothered me for quite sometime. I decided to make a few drawings based upon that awful dream. I finished both pieces in July 2001. These pieces are titled, "The Tears of a Broken Hearted Ojibwe Shaman" and "Untitled" (drawn on black paper). Both are great pieces but disturbing.

It wasn't until that morning when that tragic day occurred on September 11, 2001 that I started to realize this was the evil image I drew just two months prior to this awful day. It was such a sad day for us all, especially to the ones who lost their loved ones. Were my drawings based upon these dreams? Was this dream trying to warn me, or was it just a coincidence of my dream?

I only wished I could have stopped it. What a terrible event that human beings can afflict such evil on other human beings. I have had other dreams relating to events or just people in general. My dreams were so real that they seem to become true in somewhat of a similar fashion or another.

Not long after September 11, a private collector purchased the smaller drawing ("Untitled" on black paper) and the Frederick Weisman Art Museum of Minneapolis purchased the larger drawing ("The Tears of a Broken Hearted Ojibwe Shaman") soon after. I'm blessed with a gift of being artistic but also the gift of sight within my dreams. I do wish at times, I could save or warn of these upcoming tragic events in peoples' lives, but I can't.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Dream - Choice

I had a dream last night. I came upon two paths and I had to make a choice of which one to take. Each choice ended up at the same destination. As I observed them, I noticed the end of the paths were my accomplishments and old age. The path on the left was dark with rotted out old trees with having a protruding black shadow smile at me. At the entrance they were wolves of different dark colors eating and fighting over a dead deer carcass. Some were looking at me growling. The road was bright and yellow and it was a shortcut to my prominent destination. The path on the right was much brighter and full of beauty. The sun was shining with lush green grass. The birds were singing and the flowers were blooming. Yet this path was much longer to my destination. I could see the problems and sadness I would face if I chose to take this path. I could see the hard work in my recovery process, family values, negative people, happiness, sadness, death among my family and friends and other problems. Things and issues I would routinely experience in life as an normal human being. The darker path on the left was very tempting because it was a shortcut to my destination. I wouldn't have to deal with such problems at all. Thinking of what path to take, I chose the right path. I chose to deal with my problems and not to run away from them. I choose to live life to the fullest. It was the right choice.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Negative People Get Negative Results

I have had negative people around me most of my life. As far back as I can remember,my father was probably the worst one along with my older cousins and friends. I seemed to have been picked on,no matter how I tried to fit in. This was a common practice ever since I was in grade school. Being around these people who tormented and teased me,created a world where I grew accustomed to it. I always put my head down when something positive came my way. I didn't know how to react to it. I always kept to myself. I was pretty much like that when my teenage years came as well. I started to drink and do drugs which greatly clouded my mind and especially my artistic abilities. I chose the wrong path,a path in which it made me seriously dysfunctional and helpless. I did not see the great potential I had with art. I was always high on drugs,I made no sense to others and especially to myself.I was called demeaning names,was constantly picked on, made into a slave and in turn knocked my morale down into the gutter. I pretended it did not emotionally hurt me but it really did hurt me. These were my own relatives and friends who did such things to me. It saddens me looking back and thinking of this awful time in my life. But now I choose not to be angry at these people. I choose not to hold such resentment towards them. If I do, I will become one of them and my spirit will become sick. This is something I don't or want in my life. I choose to be a good spirited and positive person. I am now starting to stand up for myself against negative people. I was once a part of their lives because I was too nice of a guy to verbaly defend myself. Now that I've changed with growth and understanding,I don't want them to be a part of my life anymore. I have put up with it most of my life and I refuse to put up with it anymore. Negative people are no good for anyone to be around. I want to be happy,positive and I want to succeed in life. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Friday, June 22, 2007

First Years

My first years of my life were quite faint. I do remember being as young as two years old. Unfortunately, I only remember the bad things my little sister Fawn and I endured. My father and mother argued a lot, but they also loved us a lot too. My father was 20 years old and my mother was 17 years old, when I was born. They were both too young to even raise children but they did the best they could. I was three years old when my parents finally separated. My father could not afford to take care of Fawn and I, so he gave us up to my mother. I remember crying for my father, yelling"Daddy" over and over. My bond was a lot more stronger with my father then it was with my mother. Fawn was just sitting there not knowing what was going on. I think she was too young to even know what was going on.

I do understand now why my father had to leave us. He did it because he was broke and also because he loved us. He thought our best interest was with our mother. The sense of abandonment had hit me hard. I did feel a little safe with my mother but I also felt safer being with Fawn. Fawn was my little "Teddy Bear". She gave me such love and comfort.

My mother's alcoholism came to light during our brief time with her. I awoke some nights and found my mother wasn't there. She locked us in a room while she went out to party. When those nights came I would run to the window, open it and cry for my mother over and over again.
We were terrified of being left alone. This went on for quite sometime. If she didn't go out she brought the party to the apartment. All kinds of people, and they were all drunk. I don't remember them hurting us, but it was very unhealthy for us to be around all of that chaos. I thought this was a way of life. It was at this time when I was only three years old that I took my first drink. The nearly empty beer can was laying on the floor one morning and I picked it up and drank it!

I know my mother was not a good mother but I knew she loved us and we loved her. It just wasn't a family that was meant to be. My mother locked us up again and someone finally called the police.

We ended up in foster care in Denver, Colorado. It was hard for us at first, but we got to be children again among the other kids. Three meals a day and lots of toys to play with. Fawn and I got to see our mother one last time, but we were too busy playing with our toys. My mother wept and cried. We had no idea what was going on. We were just happy. My mother's alcoholism got the best of her, but it was also a blessing for us. Although this time in my life has affected me deeply to this day, I have made peace with it and I have forgiven my mother for what she had put us through.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Late Bloomer

Since 2001, I find myself maturing into an adult at the late age of 27 years. I felt like a lost child six years ago when I checked myself into a treatment facility. Not knowing what an adult should be or do? I was a very immature young man. If nothing went my way, I pouted like a little boy. When confronted with a problem I simply ran away from my problems. That was my way of dealing with such problems. Never confronting. Avoiding was such an easier solution. My past addiction to alcohol and drugs were more likely clouding my young mind and slowing my process of being a promising, productive, mature adult in life.

My father was somewhat there but it wasn't enough. The main issue with my father was his negativity towards me and life in general. It was his words that really made a bad impact on me. I always believed I wasn't good enough to be anyone or be anybody. My father probably meant well on his end, but it really knocked my moral down into the gutter. No matter how good I did in life, there was always something negative coming from him and I always believed him. All I wanted from my father was to be positive, no matter what! I wanted his encouragement, love, support and especially to show me how to be a man. He never showed his love for me but I knew he loved me.

Later in life I learned how to be a man. I have learned how to be good person to myself and to others. I learned how to love myself with respect and am truly able to love others. I'm positive to people no matter how bad it is for them. I seem to be doing the opposite of how my father was.

I just want to continue to be the best that I can be in life. I am now 33 years old, sober, and a man.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Staying Busy

My Students (2007).

I've been working on a painting project for my good friend Winona LaDuke. The project is located in Callaway, Minnesota at the new Native Harvest / White Earth Land Recovery Project building.
I painted a 260 foot long by 11 inch in width Ojibwe Floral Design. I seriously under bid myself and the project took a lot longer then I thought. But the positive side of it was, I got to make new friends which were very nice and considerate to me. I learned how to paint faster and build more experience as a painter. I even got to work with children through out the White Earth Indian Reservation as an artist. The kids were great to work with! Such great attention span and enthusiasm. Never a dull moment.
I'm now on track with my art. Making my large color pencil drawing's for an upcoming exhibition in London this coming September of 2007. Jim Rosenquist called me a couple of times yesterday regarding the painting's. He plans to buy a painting and he's got some buyer's lined up as well. I did tell him it's hard to make painting's when there is no money in it. Everytime I paint, I paint myself into a hole, broke! Jim saved me a couple of times due to this process. I think he knows by now, I'm having a hard time making that transition from color pencils to paint. So far, I'm really coming along well with painting! I just needed a little push in the right direction and Jim did so.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Born With a Gift

My father tells me I became an artist at the early age of 8 months. Which, I did not believe until I saw my mother for the first time, six years ago. She was telling me the same story my father had been telling me all those years! I was drawing shapes and scribbles at 8 months! My father said I looked like a little fat troll baby with bright hazel eyes. My jet black hair just wouldn't sit down. It was like a bolt of lightning hit me. I must of looked pretty funny and weird at that time! Relatives and neighbors would come over and watch me draw. I'm sure some of them were surprised. I think it was around my first year that I drew my first figure, my father tells me. It was a full bodied person! I don't think my father will ever get tired of telling me that story.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Currently, I am working on drawings and paintings. I am having a hard time working the two mediums together. There is quick money in drawings but there is no money in painting........yet. I really would love to paint more, but there is the money factor right now. I am sure I will laugh about this "starving artist" time in my life, later on. I am very thankful for Jim Rosenquist for his inspiration and help. I thank him for assisting me to see the endless possibilities of expanding my artistic mind. So far I have 7 large acrylic paintings. Rosenquist has expressed his good intentions for my paintings. I appreciate him helping me and not asking a penny from me. He just wants to help me succeed.