April 12, 2012

Bill Rabbit dead

April 12, 2012 The Times

A celebrated artist based in Pryor has died. Bill Rabbit, 65, died Monday.

Rabbit was one of the most successful Native American artists in the world. He has received numerous awards and recognitions for his artwork, including the Oklahoma Heritage Award in 2001 and Master Artist at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in 1986. He received Artist of the Year at the 1989 Indian Arts and Crafts Association wholesale market, where his poster, “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” was selected as the official poster for the IACA and is the only poster in the history of the IACA to sell out.

Among his many awards, Rabbit was chosen twice by the Oklahoma State Arts Council to create an artistic Easter egg to be displayed on the White House lawn. After the Easter celebration, these eggs were sent to the Smithsonian, where they were put on permanent display. Internationally, visitors to the Vatican can admire Rabbit’s work displayed alongside artists such as Rembrandt and Picasso.

Rabbit was self-taught in acrylic painting and jewelry making. He sharpened his skills through experimentation and did little preliminary sketching. Rabbit was influenced by other artists and tried to capture something of their spirits, skies, colors and forms.

During the Vietnam War, Rabbit served 18 months in the 25th Infantry Division alongside acclaimed filmmaker, Oliver Stone. Stone would later win an Academy Award for “Platoon,” a portrayal of his tour of duty that he shared with Rabbit.

Rabbit’s service years during this time in history taught him that life’s moments are precious. Becoming an artist only justified his path in life, and he turned those precious moments into something he loved.

“Life has been kind to me,” Rabbit once said in an interview. “I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to see the things I’ve seen, and do the things I’ve done. But if I died tomorrow, I would feel so blessed, and I hope that God puts me in charge of painting rainbows.”

Rabbit was born in Wyoming of Cherokee ancestry. He moved to Pryor with his family when he was 18. He shared a studio with his daughter, Traci Rabbit, also a Cherokee artist.

See Rabbit’s obituary on page 3A.

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