|Unique, talented, and accomplished describe this South Dakota Hall of Fame honoree. People come from all walks of life, and JoAnne Bird’s life is another unique and extraordinary story. She was born in Oakland, California, in 1945 and was raised by her grandmother in northeastern South Dakota near Sisseton. JoAnne said she knew at an early age her destiny was to be an artist. After graduating from high school in Flandreau, SD, she went on to Dakota State University in Madison to receive her art training. She continued her art education at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
JoAnne is a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. She lives in Bushnell, SD, and is married to recording artist, Gordon Bird. The Birds have three daughters. The family plays a major role in preserving its Indian culture from JoAnne’s art works to performing contemporary traditional Native American music. JoAnne’s paintings and sculptures reflect her Native American heritage. Much of her work is spiritual in nature and dates back to legends and history. JoAnne considers herself an impressionist. She discovered her impressionistic technique one day after feeling frustrated. JoAnne said, “I threw paint at the canvas…I was a realist and I couldn’t figure out what I wanted…and I was disgusted and I threw the paint. Then I realized I could control that throwing. It wasn’t just an accident. It’s free and it’s loose and it’s like nature.” The paintings come straight from her subconscious; she never plans ahead of time. “When I see what’s in the painting, I paint what I visualize,” Bird says. Her paintings are created by the use of a palette, a knife, a brush, and layered colors of paint. Bird says she works into the night, starting around 9 p.m., and continuing in her studio until morning, playing music of Beethoven or Bach.JoAnne Bird has earned state, national, and international recognition as an accomplished artist. She has won numerous awards, and her paintings can be found in museums and private collections. She was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1992 as “Artist of the Year.” JoAnne says, “If you’re doing the best of your ability and living right and doing right, the paths do open. All I can do is just keep doing the best I can.”
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