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Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota artist's work featured in new Tanka gift baskets

January 10, 2012

Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota artist's work featured in new Tanka gift baskets
Every artist has a special technique all their own.

Oglala Lakota artist, Sam Two Bulls, uses a style that not only sets his work apart, but also commemorates the richness and power of the buffalo. Mr. Two Bulls paints with a cellulose sponge that he cut a buffalo out of and uses it as a stamp instead of typical brushstrokes.

"It's kind of like my signature," he said. "Nobody else uses it."

Mr. Two Bulls' work is featured in some of our new gift baskets - the Kimimila Basket, Medicine Wheel Basket (available soon) and the Tanka Wicasa Basket. He created miniature buffalo and butterflies he carved out of wood and painted in vibrant colors.



"I always incorporate the buffalo sponge to paint the buffalo. It creates a lot of depth," he said. "If you look closely, it goes from red to orange and yellow. It's more or less the sunburst."

Sam Two Bulls graduated in 1991 from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, where he developed his artistic style. He sold his work in New Mexico for a year at tourist attractions in Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque then he moved back home to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He comes from a family of artists and it was his love of his people and his roots that brought him back to the reservation.

Much of his work which varies from paintings, jewelry boxes and wooden figures, focuses on animals and symbols of his heritage - buffalo, eagles, dragonflies, horses, tee pees and often includes Bear Butte and the Black Hills as a backdrop. He always incorporates his buffalo sponge in his work along with a toothbrush for a splatter technique.

"Bear Butte is where we go to pray every year," Mr. Two Bulls said. "It's kind of a spiritual things for me to put my mountains in my art."

Mr. Two Bulls works out of his home where he has a shop where he creates. He uses a multitude of mediums - acrylic paints, power tools and wood-burning tools for woodworking. His work can be seen South Dakota businesses, galleries, flower shops and local hospitals. Patrons from all over the US order from him directly as well. And every year he goes back to Santa Fe, which he calls his "home away from home" to visit and to sell his work at art markets where he gets inspiration from other artists.

One thing he said he would like for people to feel when they see his work is the brilliance of the colors he uses.

"When people see my work, they always like the vibrant colors. I like them to feel like whenever they see it, they'll be taken back by the striking colors. There is a lot of confidence in my work and I'd like them to see that," he said. "I also honor the animal. I honor the buffalo. People ask me why I do it - it's to honor."

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