Mars Biggoose passed on to the next world January
23, 2000, after his fight with Cancer.
Mars' life was as unique as the person. He
once told me, "I paint just one thought for a painting and that's
all. I don't put in a bunch of fillers like clouds and trees. I
want the person to see just the thought of the painting- the story is
just exactly what you see.".
Mars painted in a flat, two dimensional style that
blended the traditional, spiritual, and surreal that has been
described as ethereal. His favorite medium was Gouache, a watercolor
medium that allowed him to develop his style of muted and pastel
The following history was composed by the artist:
I am Marcellus (Mars) Biggoose, I am
"He-Zee-Nah-Zhee", (Young Buffalo) of the Ponca Tribe.
When I was 6 years old, the Federal Government took
me from my family and sent me to the Pawnee Indian School in Pawnee,
Oklahoma. The government closed the school in 1958 and I was
transferred to the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas.
At that time the Institute was a high school and
vocational training center. I dropped out of school in 1960 and
wandered quite a bit until 1964. I had always enjoyed
drawing and thought I would learn more about my craft if I attended
the Institute of American Indian Arts, in Santa Fe, New
Mexico. While there I studied under the guidance of Allen
Houser, (Apache). However, I was still not ready to learn and
left after one year, (1964-65).
I continued to wander and moved to Enid,
Oklahoma. I had learned of an art contest held at the library
(1966). I decided I would enter the contest and I won First
During this time I became friends with the
librarian. She told me of a woman in Muskogee, Oklahoma who
might be interested in my art work. She arranged an introduction for
me to Nettie Wheeler. Before our first meeting I was
encouraged to arrange a selection of paintings of various themes that
I painted around 20 paintings and proudly presented
myself to Nettie. As she looked at each painting,
she began throwing the paintings at me one at a time and kept
asking me, "Who are you?" and
I kept answering "Mars, Biggoose". Finally she ran out of
paintings, but was still asking, "Who are you?" I was
now at a loss for words and just shrugged my shoulders. Nettie
yelled, "Are you a white man?" "No." I replied.
"I'm Indian". Nettie looked at me and said with a firm
voice, "Then paint like an Indian---show your beliefs, values,
and what is important to you, Mars, Biggoose---an Indian."
That was the last time I painted non-Indian
themes. Nettie Wheeler was a wonderful person. I have been with
her when an artist would bring her a "rough looking"
painting and ask her if she would buy the painting. I knew she
didn't want that painting, but she would buy it anyway. The money was
for a good purpose--food or gas. She knew the money might be used in
other ways, but she still supported the artists. I lost a strong
supporter of my work when she passed on in the 70's.
Since her passing I have continued on my own way.
My paintings always reflect the symbolism of the Native American
"spirituality". The person represented in my painting
is constantly searching for guidance and understanding of the
challenges of life. For the Native American this is done through
prayer. The paintings are also a reflection of myself, for I am always
trying to keep my "Center" and honor the
"Circle". The "White Buffalo" provides us
strength and survival. When I paint the majestic bald eagle this
represents protection and courage for me. Sometimes my paintings
will reflect a yearning for the past that will never return to this
If you have followed American History you may have
read about my great-great-grandfather, Chief Standing Bear. Chief Standing
Bear sued George Crook, (Brigadier General in the Army), and the
United States for not allowing the Indians the same rights as American
citizens. The judge did not decide this question, but held the Indian
as a person within the meaning of the law and had rights as a citizen
in 1879. My grandmother was the last to wear a blue dot on her
forehead and a cross on top of her hand, symbolizing a Princess in the
traditional ways. My grandfather, Augustus, "Gus"
McDonald, was the first World Champion Fancy Dancer.
I will continue to paint as long as Our Father will
allow, for I now know he gave me a special gift.