Frank LaPena

Frank Raymond LaPena, also known as Frank LaPeña and by his Wintu name Tauhindauli[1] (1937 – 2019),[2][3] was a Nomtipom-Wintu American Indian painter, printmaker, ethnographer, professor, ceremonial dancer, poet, and writer.[4][5] He taught at California State University, Sacramento, between 1975 to 2002. LaPena helped defined a generation of Native artists in a revival movement to share their experiences, traditions, culture, and ancestry.[6]

Frank Raymond LaPena
Born(1937-10-05)October 5, 1937
DiedMay 2, 2019(2019-05-02) (aged 81)
California, U.S.
Other namesFrank LaPeña,
Alma materCalifornia State University, Chico,
California State University, Sacramento
Occupation(s)curator, painter, printmaker, photographer, silversmith, ethnographer, professor, dancer, writer, poet
SpouseCatherine Alice Sell Skinner (m. 1966–1984; divorced)
  • Henry LaPena (father)
  • Evelyn Gladys Towndolly (mother)

Early life and educationEdit

Frank Raymond LaPena was born on October 5, 1937 in San Francisco, California,[7] to parents Evelyn Gladys (née Towndolly) and Henry LaPena.[8] His family was of the Nomtipom-Wintu tribe, and from an early age he started learning about traditions from his elders and neighboring tribes including the Nomlaki Wintun.[7][5]

When he was a child he was sent to attend federal boarding school at Chemawa Indian School, and later Stewart Indian School.[2][4] He graduated from Yreka High School in 1956. He received a BA degree in 1965 from California State University, Chico, and his MA degree in 1978 in anthropology from California State University, Sacramento.[2]

Teaching career and ethnographyEdit

LaPena started teaching at Shasta College, from 1969 to 1971.[8][7] LaPena taught at California State University, Sacramento within the art department and ethnic studies department, and serving as the director of the Native American studies department, between 1975 to 2002.[4] He lectured on traditional and cultural Native American issues, which included the California traditions.[5]

In 1970, he was part of the Maidu Dancers and Traditionalists group, as a founding member, ceremonial dancer and instructor.[8][2] He had notable students, including Harry Fonseca.[9]

LaPena's contributions about the Wintu were included in the seminal book, Handbook of North American Indians Volume 8: California (1978). He was frequent contributor to the journal, News from Native California, between the late-1980s until the 2000s.

Art career and poetryEdit

LaPena starting exhibiting his artwork in 1960 in a gallery in Chico.[10][5] His artwork was shown nationally, as well as in Europe, Central and South America, Cuba, Australia and New Zealand.[11] He created work in various mediums including in painting, printmaking, silversmithing, photography, woodworking, and others.[3][12]

LePena was part of the seminal art exhibition curated by artist Carlos Villa, Other Sources: An American Essay (1976), which was an alternative celebration of the United States Bicentennial, and focused on people of color and women.[13] It showcased many San Francisco Bay Area artists including Ruth Asawa, Bernice Bing, Rolando Castellón, Claude Clark, Robert Colescott, Frank Day, Rupert García, Mike Henderson, Oliver Jackson, Linda Lomahaftewa, George Longfish, Ralph Maradiaga, José Montoya, Manuel Neri, Mary Lovelace O'Neal, Darryl Sapien, Raymond Saunders, James Hiroshi Suzuki, Horace Washington, Al Wong, René Yañez, and Leo Valledor.[13]

LaPena served as a co-curator of the traveling exhibition, The Extension of Tradition: Contemporary Northern California Native American Art in Cultural Perspective (1985–1986) at Crocker Art Museum and Palm Springs Art Museum.

In 1999, at the 48th Venice Biennale, the exhibit “Rendezvoused" sponsored by the Native American Arts Alliance, curated by Nancy Mithlo (Chiricahua Apache) and featured artist Frank LaPena, alongside Harry Fonseca, Bob Haozous, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Kay WalkingStick, Richard Ray Whitman, and poet Simon Ortiz.[14]

Additionally, LaPena published several volumes of poetry.[5]

Death and legacyEdit

LaPena died on May 2, 2019, at the age of 81. LaPena had been married to Catherine Alice Sell Skinner, from August 19, 1966 to April 12, 1984 and ending in divorce.[8] Together they had two children, and LaPena had five step-children.[8]

His artwork is included in public museum collections, including at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA),[15] the Cantor Arts Center,[16] the National Museum of the American Indian,[17] C.N. Gorman Museum,[18] and others.

He was featured in two documentary films, Frank LaPeña: Wintu Artist and Traditionalist (1988) and The Heard Museum Presents Frank LaPeña, Artist and Lecturer (1993).[8]


Exhibition cataloguesEdit

  • LaPena, Frank R. (1975). Paintings and Photographs by Frank Lapena: An Exhibition, February 23 - March 29, 1975 (exhibition). U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Southern Plains Indian Museum and Crafts Center.
  • LaPena, Frank R.; Brown, Christopher; Bean, Lowell John; Bates, Craig D.; Bibby, Brian; Blount, Clinton; Theodoratus, Dorothea; Longfish, George; Randall, Joan (1985). The Extension of Tradition: Contemporary Northern California Native American Art in Cultural Perspective. Crocker Art Museum, Palm Springs Desert Museum. Crocker Art Museum.
  • LaPena, Frank R. (1987). The World is a Gift (exhibition). San Francisco, California: Limestone Press. OCLC 17004515.

As authorEdit

As editorEdit

  • Gilmore, Kristina Perea (2019). LaPena, Frank; Johnson, Mark Dean (eds.). When I Remember I See Red: American Indian Art and Activism in California. Crocker Art Museum. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520300811.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sarris, Greg (1994-01-01). The Sound of Rattles and Clappers: A Collection of New California Indian Writing. University of Arizona Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-8165-1434-2.
  2. ^ a b c d "Frank LaPena 1937 – 2019". Sacramento State University Library. Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b Worthington, G. Lola (23 February 2011). "LaPena, Frank". Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.t2090424. ISBN 978-1-884446-05-4. Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b c "Frank LaPena". Crow's Shadow Institute of Art. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Frank LaPena". Rehistoricizing The Time Around Abstract Expressionism. Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "The World is a Gift: Remembering Frank LaPena". Autry Museum of the American West. 2020-10-07. Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ a b c "Guide to the Frank R. LaPena papers, 1930s-2013". Online Archive of California (OAC). Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ a b c d e f "LapeÑa, Frank Raymond 1937-". Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ Abbott, Larry. "A Time of Visions, Harry Fonseca, Maidu". Archived from the original on 2006-05-01.
  10. ^ Dennis, Yvonne Wakim; Hirschfelder, Arlene; Flynn, Shannon Rothenberger (2016-04-18). Native American Almanac: More Than 50,000 Years of the Cultures and Histories of Indigenous Peoples. Visible Ink Press. p. 575. ISBN 978-1-57859-607-2.
  11. ^ "Frank Raymond La Pena - Biography". Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ Klein, Barry T. (2000). Reference Encyclopedia of the American Indian. Todd Publications. p. 600. ISBN 978-0-915344-89-5.
  13. ^ a b Johnson, Mark (September 11, 2013). "1976 and Its Legacy: Other Sources: An American Essay at San Francisco Art Institute". Art Practical. Retrieved July 13, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ ""Rendezvoused"". Archived from the original on 2009-02-07.
  15. ^ "Frank LaPena". The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ "Frank Raymond LaPena". Cantor Arts Center. Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ "Shaman". National Museum of the American Indian. Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "Frank LaPena, Sacred Fire". C.N. Gorman Museum. Retrieved 2021-09-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External linksEdit