Benjamin Harjo Obituary, Death Cause – Benjamin Harjo Jr., an accomplished artist who lived in Oklahoma City and was known as the “Picasso of Native American art,” passed away on Saturday. He was 77. “Within the… community of Native artists, he has been an absolute cornerstone for Oklahoma,” said heather ahtone, who is Choctaw and Chickasaw and is the Director of Curatorial Affairs at the First Americans Museum. “He has left behind a legacy that is filled with kindness and charity, as well as wit that is razor sharp. And there’s no question that people will miss having him around.”
Harjo, considered to be one of the most influential Native American artists of all time, had Absentee Shawnee ancestry on his mother’s side of the family and Seminole ancestry on his father’s side of the family. Harjo stated that he always knew he wanted to be an artist while he was growing up close to Byng. “Being an artist is the only thing I’ve ever truly desired to do with my life. Art has always been a part of me, even during the difficult moments in my life when I thought to myself, “Well, I need to do something to make a living.”
“Therefore, I pursued it and continued,” Harjo stated in an interview with The Oklahoman in 2007. Harjo began his official study in the arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He continued his education at Oklahoma State University, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1974. “He graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts at a moment in time when the parameters of modern Native art were being rethought. “And I believe that he contributed to that redefinition,” Ahtone stated.