Jump to Navigation

Bernard "Poco" Frazier

Sculptor. Born: 1906. Died: 1976

Bernard Frazier earned his nickname "Poco" (Spanish for "small") while a student at the University of Kansas.  Standing at about five feet even and weighing a solid 100 pounds, Frazier became a very successful sculptor of large and small sculpture works.  After graduating, Frazier was an apprentice sculptor in Chicago and then returned to Kansas where he gained a reputation as a highly skilled artist.

Frazier was commissioned to produce hundreds of pieces of art for businesses, churches and public buildings in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.  He also taught sculpture at KU.  On the exterior of the First United Methodist Church in Wichita he created perhaps the largest and heaviest mosaic in the United States.  It took Frazier and his son Malcolm three years to assemble the 70,000 clay tiles, fired by Frazier himself, into the seven ton artwork.

The State of Kansas commissioned Frazier to sculpt the large Spanish, French, and American pioneers onto an otherwise quite drab Docking State Office Building, which is west across the street from the State Capitol building in Topeka. To produce this mural he worked early in the morning and late at night so as not to bother the state office workers.

He was also requested to design a statue for the top of the Capitol dome, which at that time had a large light bulb atop it. He proposed replacing the naked bulb "night light" with a 15-foot bronze statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain, who many people thought would be a good symbol for Kansas. Unfortunately, some opposed it because they thought it too expensive, while others objected to a pagan goddess of uncertain morals looking out over the state capital. Eventually, another sculptor designed the bronze statue of a Native American that now stands atop the dome.

Frazier's last big project was a large marble allegorical statue titled Justice, which now stands in the foyer of the Kansas Judicial Center, which is near his creation on the Docking Building and across the street from the Capitol building. Frazier had completed the design and selected the Italian marble block from which Justice was to be sculpted when he passed away. His son Malcolm finished the task.

Bernard Frazier is probably the best sculptor produced by Kansas up to this time and his reputation went beyond the borders of his native state where he did most of his work.

Entry: Frazier, Bernard "Poco"

Author: G. Joseph Pierron

Author information: Judge Pierron serves on the Kansas Court of Appeals and has an interest in Kansas history.

Date Created: November 2012

Date Modified: December 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.