Earl Biss (1947 – 1998) was a profound contributor to the explosion of Southwestern Art in the last half of the 20th century, and particularly to the rise of Contemporary Native American Art. His compelling portraits of Plains Indian horsemen, his phenomenal grasp of the medium of oil painting, and above all the sheer exuberance of his palette and brushwork earned him a place in the history books of modern art. He was, according to one Southwest critic and collector, "The greatest colorist of the 20th century."
A member of the Crow Nation - the Apsáalooke - Earl Biss found inspiration for his works in tribal ways and history learned from the elders, and in the sweeping landscapes of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains.
Biss was a central figure in the "miracle generation" of students at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe in the 1960s. When Earl and his fellow students – which included Kevin Red Star, T.C. Cannon and Doug Hyde – arrived at IAIA, western art was focused on cowboys and landscapes, while Native art was stylized, linear and depictive. That perspective was too narrow for Biss, who studied painting with Fritz Scholder, sculpture with Allan Houser, jewelry and design with Charles Loloma, and architecture with Paolo Soleri. Inspired by these teachers, as well as fauvism, impressionism, expressionism, and other modernist movements, Biss pushed himself and his friends to create an entirely new genre that we know today as Contemporary Native American Art.
His mastery with oils evolved over time with colors becoming richer and with unparalleled depth as he pushed the edge of what is possible in wet-in-wet technique. Expressionist - yet always giving enough imagery to ground the viewer - Earl Biss was ever the explorer. His works are in major museums and collected worldwide.
The President of American Design Ltd, and the founder of multiple galleries in New Mexico and Colorado, Paul Zueger represented Earl Biss for the last ten years of Earl’s life. Paul has been in the Fine Arts business for over forty years and represents artists from all over the world. americandesignltd.com
An Internationally known Crow artist and third cousin to Earl Biss, the two share the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of the Crow culture, the Apsáalooke. Kevin was one of the first students of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in the 1960s, and part of the core group that gave birth to the Contemporary Native American Art Movement. Red Star’s works are the focal point of important Art and Culture Museums. KevinRedStar.com
A recently retired outfitter, Dana Ivers is a former wife of Earl Biss (1970-1975). They met as students at the San Francisco Art Institute and married at Crow Reservation. Earl introduced Dana to Crow culture and Dana introduced Earl to Europe to study the old masters in person. Dana provided archival footage of Earl she shot in 1970 and 1997.
Denise Joyner-Biss was married to Earl Biss from 1992-1994. During that time, she helped manage his career in Colorado and Rhode Island. Her father was a State Representative for Rhode Island. A gracious host for social gatherings, Denise assisted in drawing attention to Earl’s work.
A mutual friend of the creative and rebellious duo, Earl Biss and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, Bob Braudis is the former sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado. Well known as a compassionate sheriff, he is a champion and protector of “creative freaks” that can be found in Aspen, Colorado.
Recognized as one of America's foremost Native American sculptors over the span of a 30-year career, Presley LaFountain is of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe. A close friend of Earl, the two worked and exhibited together at times since the 1970s, and shared many adventures. presleylafountain.com
Dante Biss-Grayson is an Osage artist, poet, fashion designer, and veteran. As son of artist, Gina Gray, and adopted son of Earl Biss, he grew up in their studios as an apprentice and protégé’. Dante has begun to explore new technologies to create artworks in a new light and direction. dantebissgrayson.com
Tatiana Lomahaftewa-Singer is Curator of Collections of the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). The daughter of renowned Hopi-Choctaw artist, Linda Lomahaftewa, she grew up around groundbreaking Native artists. IAIA.edu
Ryan Flahive is Archivist at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and serves as adjunct faculty for the IAIA museum studies department in archives studies and oral history. He is the author of Celebrating Difference: Fifty Years of Contemporary Native Arts at IAIA, 1962-2012. IAIA.edu
David Rettig is Curator of Collections for Allan Houser, Inc. He has lived in Santa Fe, NM for 41 years, initially with his own studio, but quickly transitioning to gallery management and art sales. He operated and owned numerous contemporary galleries in Santa Fe before going to work in 1995 for the estate of Allan Houser. allanhouser.com
A noted art critic, collector and friend of Earl Biss, Dr. Yakes is world renowned for developing new diagnostic and management approaches of vascular anomalies. President of the Museum of Biblical Art and the National Center for Jewish Art, Dr. Yakes is a champion of Fine Art. theyakesvascularmalformationcenter.com
Victor Abbo was an attorney, art collector, and a friend and advisor to Earl Biss. A citizen of Venezuela and the U.S., his practice handled cases in Corporate & Incorporation, Criminal Defense, Intellectual Property, and International Law. He had offered a film interview in deep admiration of Earl Biss’ talent. Victor passed away in the spring of 2019.
Gilbert White Wolf Glenn, of the Crow Nation - the Apsaalooke, knew Earl Biss from the time he was a little boy. Of the same clan, Gilbert considers Earl a little brother in the Crow way. Gilbert’s sister, Clara Bull Tail, adopted Earl when his mother, Dorothy Shane passed away.
Former wife of Victor Abbo, Gail Scilacci Abbo is a retired paralegal and private investigator. She was a trusted friend of Earl Biss, an art collector and avid supporter of Native Artists. Gail helped Earl Biss archive photos of his art and materials about his life which subsequently was a great resource for the writing of the books and film.
Rita Shane is Earl Biss’ cousin - a sister in the Crow way. Earl and Rita were raised by their Apsaalooke grandmother Margaret Spotted Horse Stewart until the age of six. Their great-grandfather was Chief Spotted Horse, and their step-great grandfather was White Man Runs Him, a Crow scout for General Custer.
Joseph Stewart is a member of the Crow Tribe - the Apsaalooke. He is one of the keepers of oral history and has a deep understanding of the purpose and significance of the traditional ways of the Apsaalooke people.
Billy Stolz is a CO-Founder and COO of the member-only Caribou Club in Aspen, Colorado. Earl Biss was contracted to create a mural in the “Powwow Room” of the club. The mural encases the room in images of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. It is entitled “The Last Second of Custer’s Life”. caribouclub.com