The summer long “WOKIKSUYE” exhibit of a late Lakota master’s works includes the 1989 pastel on paper “Madonna and Child.” The show opens with a gathering for those who would like to share memories or stories from Penn’s life. Image courtesy Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center Collection
Rapid City pays respects to revered Rosebud artist Robert Penn
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
Native Sun News Today Health & Environment Editor

RAPID CITY, South Dakota — The Rapid City Arts Council opened a major summer long exhibition May 28 of late Lakota artist Robert Penn’s works. Entitled “WOKIKSUYE”, it commences at the Dahl Arts Center Cyclorama Gallery with “a gathering for those who would like to share memories or stories” from the life of the artist, the city said in an open invitation to the reception.

Wokiksuye is a translation from the Lakota language, meaning “a remembrance.” The public reception is scheduled from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. The show will be in the Senator Stan Adelstein & Lynda K. Clark Gallery of the Dahl Arts Center. The artwork will be on display through August 21, according to hosts.

Most of the artwork is from the collections of Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center in Chamberlain and from Cathy and Larry Piersol of Vermillion, where Penn lived, they said. Among the pieces demonstrating the artist’s versatility are ‘Legend of the Four Brothers” a 1986 watercolor on paper; “Flute Player”, 1989, scratchboard; “Pipe Carrier”, a 1989 watercolor on paper; and the 1989 pastel on paper “Madonna and Child.”

Some of Penn’s works are only on view at collections in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; and the Vincent Price Gallery in Chicago. Sicangu Lakota and Omaha, Penn was born on May 3, 1946 in Omaha and passed on February 7, 1999. He attended high school at St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of South Dakota in 1992.

Penn was a protégé and work study assistant of former South Dakota Artist Laureate Oscar Howe (1915-1983), a Yanktonai Dakota. Known as Bobby and his Lakota name Wichapi Cik’ala, or Little Star, he explored and mastered every style of art that he pursued.

“He seemed to move effortlessly from large oil paintings to intimate watercolor pieces. It didn’t matter if he was working on a portrait study in acrylics or a landscape painting, Penn was equally adept at any media and style he chose to pursue, and this was one of the things that set him apart from other artists,” exhibit curators said.

“He painted ‘the truth’ as he found it in the world, and he attributed this creative talent to Wakan Tanka – the Great Spirit,” they said, noting that Penn has long been viewed and spoken of as one of South Dakota’s greatest contemporary artists.


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