Frank LaPena
(Wintu-Nomtipom/Tenai) was born on October 5, 1937, in San Francisco, California. After graduating from Yreka High School, he earned a Bachelor of Arts at CSU, Chico, a teaching credential at San Francisco State, and a Master of Arts degree at CSU Sacramento — where he has taught Art and Ethnic Studies since 1971.

Visionary and prolific, LaPena is an artist in the most complete sense of the term — having made significant contributions to virtually every realm of expressive culture, from painting and writing, to ceremonial song and dance. His art has been exhibited nationally and internationally, in both group and one-man shows, including shows at the Crocker Art Museum, Oakland Museum of California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Linden Museum (Stuttgart, Germany), the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the C. N. Gorman Museum (Davis, CA), American Indian Community House (New York and San Francisco), the Santa Fe Festival of the Arts, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (Santa Fe). In 2003, the stunning retrospective, The Earth is Singing: The Art of Frank LaPena, opened at Turtle Bay Museum (Redding, CA), in the heart of Wintun ancestral territory.

"In my imagination is a world my elders have given me. It is beautiful and difficult, and vastly rewarding. I want to share those stories and my own experiences I have lived. Art is the emotional response of my imagination. There is nothing more mysterious than the real world. It already exists." Frank LaPena, Images of Identity, 2004

LaPena's essays, poetry, and scholarship on art and Native tradition have had an especially profound influence on the Sacramento region and the state of California, but have also reached well beyond these audiences, to artworlds and indigenous peoples across the globe. His respect for and dedication to the spiritual and ceremonial heritage of his ancestors is evident in his new book Dream Songs and Ceremony: Reflections on Traditional California Indian Dance (Heyday Press 2004) and in his longtime leadership of the Maidu Dancers and Traditionalists, a group formed under the guidance and teachings of the Konkow Maidu artist Frank Day, one of many individuals and life experiences to find singular expression in LaPena's bold and vibrant paintings.