Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Two Bulls Family Tradition Of Creativity

An exhibit at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City showcases work from generations of artists. And, a number of them, share the same last name. The Two Bulls family is well known in the Black Hills arts community. They employ a variety of artistic forms  to express themselves-from video and music to paint and clay.


When you talk to members of the Two Bulls family, you quickly learn that art is their tradition.  

That’s certainly obvious in the current Dahl exhibit with works from eight family members. Creative parents encourage their children and pass on their skills. 58 year old Lorri Ann Two Bulls says art can help define a personality.  

“I believe personally that art helps children because they’re being creative. With art able to get out your emotions and it’s like putting words on canvas or just the different colors you use or mixing your paint. Just creating.”

Lorri Ann Two Bulls has been an artist as long for as she can remember. She’d watch her dad paint when she was young. But says her family can trace the roots of its creativity back even further.

“My mom said that her grandfather was really into making different Native type traditional tools and horse braiding. He had the name Ten Fingers so we always think, well he was creative with his hands. On my dad’s side, practically everybody’s creating something.”

The family is Oglala Lakota Sioux - they live all over the state. Lorri Ann Two Bulls says even family members who are not artists are creative. She put art on the backburner to raise kids and focus on a career. But she still created in her free time, making things like small, decorated turtles.

“See I was working full time but then I got sick suddenly. I had cancer-I’m a cancer survivor. When I got sick I couldn’t work anymore. And then it was my friend who started taking them around to different gift shops for me and it just kind of took off. So I just kind kind of evolved and I make different things.”

Lorri Ann Two Bulls is now a full time artist. She uses mostly materials found in nature-making things like butterflies painted on elk hyde. She also works canvas, painting lively images of women surrounded by colorful geometric shapes, metallic lines and glitter. The technique and style of each artist in the family is district.

Molina Parker is Lorri Ann Two Bulls’ niece. The two lived in the same house when Parker was young, along with several other family members. Three have attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico.

“We grew up in a house where my aunt did her art, my mom did her beadwork and it’s something we always saw. And so I think it was just kind of a natural thing for my brother and cousin and I to do.”

Parker says the family works well together and is supportive.

“We don’t compete with each other and there’s no jealousy or anything. I think it’s important to encourage each other to do the best that you can do. And as long as you do that I think it creates a safe environment for us to do collaborations as well.”

Parker used to watch her mom bead and joined in when she was a kid. Now, the 36 year old continues to do beadwork-but in her own style. She makes adorned jewelry and three dimensional beaded pieces taking inspiration from traditional Lakota style while adding  more contemporary techniques.

Two Bulls Family Members

“They’re Native made but they have their own flare to them. If you’re looking at it from a distance, you wouldn’t think ‘oh that’s Lakota’. So it’s beadwork and it’s Lakota and it’s made by a Lakota person, but it’s my own voice.”

Parker uses some beads that date back to the 1800’s. She says this gives her work another layer of meaning.

“I like to create pieces that speak to me. Like for instance I have a  piece in the show that has two buffalos, and that’s our name. Tatanka Nunpa, Two buffalos. It also has three teepees in there, which I felt like represented my house, my husband’s and my coming together to start a new beginning.”

Parker’s husband is also an artist and their four year old daughter is already getting creative.

“We were just talking the other day how she doesn’t play with her toys anymore. She just draws all the time or she beads. She’s not interested in playing with other stuff like other kids do.”

Parker says they try not to push anything on their daughter, Bobbi. Parker says Bobbi’s style is crazy and she creates whatever comes to mind. Bobbi elaborates.

Chynna: “What kind of art do you like?”

Bobbi: “[what] I like with art is [the] workstation. And I just make stuff for Christmas and I just love you.”

Bobbi says she likes to draw and bead, but there are other things she wants to try.

Bobbi: “ A dress and a necklace and then a purse.”

Chynna: “What are you going to use for it?”

Bobbi: “Cut and then put papers and glue in it.”

The Two Bulls family also makes music. Four family members are in a band called the Wake Singers. The lead singer of the band is 19 year old Reed Two Bulls. She’s the youngest of her cousins. She was raised in L.A. and moved to Minneapolis when her father took a job as an Episcopalian Priest. He still finds time to create and inspire his daughter.

“My dad is an artist so he always had paints around and stuff so I would mess around. They got me like kids stuff when I was really little so I’ve kind of been painting since I was a child.”

Reed Two Bulls is taking a break after high school to consider her future. She’s focused on making music-sometimes with relatives.

“They found out I could sing and they were like ‘yeah you want to record a couple songs?’ and I was like ‘yeah that sounds cool’. And so like in 2015 was the first time we recorded together.”

Everyone in the band plays multiple instruments. Reed Two Bulls sings and plays the piano. She has a deep, alto voice.


Two Bulls says each member has a role. She writes the melodies, two others write the instrumental pieces and another writes the lyrics.


Even though she’s never lived in  South Dakota, her family is close. She says being in the band has helped strengthen her creative side.

“It feels like I’m bonding, like this different kind of bonding I haven’t felt before in my life. I do learn a lot musically from them because they’ve been working on music a long time.”


The Wake singers recently performed their first live shows together and are planning more recordings. The Two Bulls Exhibit will be on display at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City through March 9th.