Inspired work- Exhibits feature Native American artists

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“Aztec Dancer” photograph by James Wallace.
“Sacred Flame” finger woven belt by Tyra Shackleford.
“Last Evening” photograph by Brad Woods.
“Protector’s Hand-and-Eye” painting by D.G. Smalling.

Inspired work – Exhibits feature Native American artists

By Linda Miller

Contemporary art pieces by four well-known Native American artists are on display through June at three separate locations in Oklahoma.

Inspired by their passions and heritage, Brad Woods, Tyra Shackleford, James Wallace and D.G. Smalling connect with people through photography, finger weaving and painting.

Woods’ photographs are featured at the Chickasaw Visitor Center in Sulphur. Shackleford’s finger weaving and Wallace’s photography can be seen at the Chickasaw Nation Welcome Center in Davis. Smalling’s paintings are on display at Exhibit C in Oklahoma City.

Woods developed a love for nature and the outdoors as a young boy and that passion has kept him busy traveling the U.S.

“At the age of 14, in high school, I started drawing, painting and taking photos,” Woods said. “My love for wildlife and landscapes became dominant as time went on, which led me to take more photographs. Seeing the diversity of the landscapes and wildlife the United States has to offer gave me motivation to photograph my travels and share our country with people the way I saw it, through photography.”

Woods, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, has won numerous awards in the Artists of the Arbuckles.

Shackleford, an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, has been finger weaving for more than 16 years and selling her fashions for more than a decade. She credits her father and other Native Americans for sharing their knowledge on culture and tradition. It was that knowledge, combined with the teachings of Seminole elder Wisey Narcomey, that Shackleford learned the art of finger weaving.

“My father immersed my sister and me in cultural activities at a young age, which began my knowledge of the importance of our culture,” Shackleford said. “One characteristic of being Chickasaw is the act of sharing and passing on traditional knowledge to others so our culture is not lost. I am honored to be part of the preservation of my culture and history through art such as finger weaving.”

Shackelford, a member of the Chickasaw Nation Dance Troupe since 2000, has won numerous awards for finger weaving, including second place for a belt at the 2014 Red Earth Festival.

Wallace’s passion for photography started in high school more than 20 years ago. He believes photos are story tellers and conversation starters.

“I like going into someone’s home and looking at their photos, I feel as if the images they display have a story to tell,” Wallace said. “A photo allows someone to keep an image of a moment or place that is very special to them and is a natural conversation starter. Being a photographer allows me to share a moment the way that I saw it. I enjoy capturing people in their natural habitat.”

An enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, Wallace has started adding his photographs to wood and metal with a coat of acrylic resin, a technique that has made his work stand out and won him several awards.

Smalling said his mother and a woman who acted like a grandmother to him, Kay Orr, always encouraged him. He has been creating single-line art, an image drawn in a continuous line, for more than 10 years. His interest for minimalism and his Choctaw heritage drew him to the art.
The continuous line defines the contours of the subject, which Smalling then develops with paint and/or ink.

“Every piece I create, regardless of scale, is one continuous line,” Smalling said. “My work has evolved into an exercise of contemporary Southeastern ‘neo-hieroglyphics,’ the re-approach to hieroglyphic art of my Choctaw heritage, in a modern way, in terms of materials, techniques and subjects. The subjects I depict are rarely historical because I want to describe life today.”

Smalling’s art has been in several exhibitions, including featured artist at the National Museum of the American Indian “Choctaw Codetalkers Celebration” in Washington, D.C. in 2012. He also has been commissioned to paint several portraits, including former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, T. Boone Pickens and Sir Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

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