Location to promote Osage artists

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
Dante Biss-Grayson is shown with a portion of his oil-on-canvas work titled “Osage warriors hunting under the storm.” Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

The “soft opening” Friday of the Big Rain Gallery at 617 Kihekah Ave., in Pawhuska was an optimistic move in support of the work of Native American artists, but it was more — a homecoming party, if you will.

Addie Roanhorse explained her brother, Dante Biss-Grayson, recently moved to Pawhuska from New Mexico. Biss-Grayson was a U.S. government employee affected by the government shutdown. He had to report to work, but was not being paid. His sister, Addie, helped him look for another job — and he found one with the Osage Nation.

“He came home,” Addie said Friday evening during the gallery opening. She added that she thinks her late mother is excited about that. “She’s beaming in heaven right now. Family is the most important thing.”

Roanhorse and Biss-Grayson are two of three artists whose work was on display Friday. The third was R.A. Red Corn. Roanhorse said she hopes to organize four major exhibitions in the next 18 months, as well as youth programming and a youth art show. She also emphasized her mission at Big Rain Gallery is to promote new artistic creation by Osage artists and Native American artists of other backgrounds.

“Osage owned, supporting native artists” is the vision she articulated.

Biss-Grayson elaborated a bit about that vision. He said the hope is to provide space for the works of established Osage artists, up-and-coming Osage artists, Native artists of other heritages and southwestern art generally. He is planning to do some live painting on Friday and Saturday evenings at the gallery.

“We have a great market downtown but there’s no true gallery,” Biss-Grayson said, talking about the addition to downtown Pawshuka that the Big Rain Gallery can make.

Biss-Grayson, 42, is a combat veteran of the U.S. military and he explained that art has been therapeutic for him, helping him to deal with post traumatic stress. His sister described him as “a very good teacher” who has a knack for explaining to others what he does as an artist. Biss-Grayson’s work is also featured at the Osage Casino in Tulsa.

Roanhorse said Dante’s wife, Yanti, will manage the Big Rain Gallery. Roanhorse noted that Yanti is from Bali, where her family owns a textile company. Roanhorse voiced an interest in the potential for Osage adaptations of Balinese textiles.