Frank Howell (1937 – 1997) was one of the cornerstone artists of the Southwest Native Art Movement. He was known for his finely rendered, etching-like portraits of Native Americans and their symbolic artifacts. His goal was to embody the dignity of his subjects and create a fusion of the physical and spiritual worlds – what he called, “The continuum of life.”
Howell was born in Sioux City, Iowa and raised in a small home overlooking the Missouri River. He studied art and writing at the University of Northern Iowa and later taught high school. In the late 1960s, he moved briefly to Breckenridge, Colorado, then to Taos, New Mexico, and finally to Santa Fe, where he opened his own gallery.
Howell felt a strong connection to his Lakota Sioux heritage. Whether he was painting a Native American profile or landscape, his lyrical interpretations employed a visual representation of the wind as it swept across time – past, present and future. Howell viewed these images as universal symbols; a kind of mythology.
In addition to painting, Howell was a skilled photographer and master lithographer, working in monotypes, lithographs, watercolors, oils, drawings, sculpture and acrylic. His knowledge of the different media, his skills as a draftsman, and above all, his ability to communicate the harmony in man’s strength, sensitivity and unending spiritual significance were among the reasons for the overwhelming popularity of his work. “I believe that through the communion between the tools, materials, and qualities of lithography and my sensibilities, beauty may be born,” he said. “It is that communion and my awareness of its potential that perpetuates my search.”
“Painting is a wonderful kind of mirror that reflects the inner you,” Howell said. “Not your external appearance. You will have a sense of a kind of timelessness, humanness, and the poetics in all things. My work is very representational in some respects, and it's kind of explosive and expansive in other respects. I combine these directions, and, really, that's what has been accepted as the uniqueness in my work – it's contemporary and traditional at the same time."
Frank Howell’s work has been widely exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the US, Europe, Mexico and Australia. Howell and his paintings have been the subject of over 100 magazine and newspaper articles, television profiles and documentaries, and his work is in numerous museums and private and corporate collections.