By Gene Lehmann
A Brent Greenwood painting is instantly recognizable. His brush strokes are deliberately fixed to canvas in an array of brilliant acrylic colors – textured, nuanced and infinite in delivery, style and substance. Whatever image is occupying the artist’s mind is expertly re-created on canvas, framed and served up to art lovers for final judgment.
Greenwood, of Chickasaw and Ponca heritage, has found exceedingly favorable judgment from art lovers and judges alike. Fresh off January 2015 honors as “Best in Show” at the 22nd Annual Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale in Denver, Greenwood is preparing for the May 2015 Artesian Arts Festival hosted by the Chickasaw Nation.
“The Denver award was a huge honor for me and for the Chickasaw Nation. The Nation’s support is so vitally important to me,” Greenwood explained. “Most of my work has a narrative that goes with it. It was refreshing to know people can still connect with my art without knowing the full interpretation,” Greenwood said of the top honor his work Native Sisters claimed in Denver. His painting, adorned with elk teeth, was judged the finest out of 65 other works of art.
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said Greenwood is very deserving of the award.
“Brent Greenwood is a very talented artist who pays tribute to Chickasaw culture and history in his work,” Gov. Anoatubby said at the time. “He is a credit to the Chickasaw Nation.”
Greenwood is known for his historically poignant paintings coupled with abstract imagery. He strives to make an emotional and spiritual connection with those who view his art.
Most of his subjects are faceless. Greenwood’s desire is for the viewer to fill in the features with their life experiences and stories so the artwork has a sincere emotional meaning known only to them.
Such is the case with Greenwood’s painting Alikchi – meaning “healer” in the Chickasaw language – which was commissioned by Oklahoma City University to be displayed in the entrance to their Kramer School of Nursing. The canvas – measuring 7x5 feet – is open to the viewer’s interpretation. It illustrates two women tending an ill child.
Greenwood’s painting has great personal meaning to him. The healer in the painting is a combination of his grandmother’s sister, Sarah Alexander, and famed Chickasaw healer Bicey Walker.
“Bicey and Sarah were both petite. They both were healers. They dressed alike and carried themselves alike,” Greenwood said. “I want the viewer to see their history, too, not just my vision.”
I wanted the message to be about the healing power of humans. Native people still have an understanding of (holistic) medicine," Greenwood continued. "It is comforting to know if I have a sore throat or something simple, I can use this knowledge. It's a link between (modern) medicine and Native culture.”
Greenwood and a host of noted and award-winning Native American artists are preparing for the Artesian Arts Festival to be held on Saturday, May 23, 2015, Memorial Day weekend, at the Artesian Plaza in Sulphur.
It will mark the second time the festival has been hosted by the Chickasaw Nation. The festival highlights diverse art media and a variety of visual art such as paintings, basketry, jewelry, sculpture, metalworking, beadwork, textiles and pottery. Artists will also be demonstrating, sharing and discussing their craft in the ARTesian Art Gallery.
Sixteen bands will provide continuous entertainment on two stages. The lineup includes noted musical act Injunuity. The band blends various musical genres into a unique Native sound. It has won multiple Native American Music Awards (NAMMYS) and is internationally recognized as a headliner at foreign music festivals.
Artists renowned nationally and in Indian Country are preparing for the festival, too.They include Joanna Underwood, a brilliant potter whose work is recognized as among the finest. She also is responsible for works of art displayed in a park called Oka Chokmasi, Chickasaw for “beautiful water,” located southwest of the Artesian Hotel. Festivalgoers may rest and enjoy her works, which incorporate the soothing sounds of water.
Another artist on hand will be Margaret Roach Wheeler, whose textile art and historically accurate Native American fashions have been featured in national magazines and other media. Also scheduled to participate is Mike Larsen, whose painting of an Oklahoma sunrise inspired a U.S. Postage stamp, and whose portraits and stories of 48 Chickasaw elders fill the pages of two books. Larsen also created The Arrival sculpture, which depicts a Chickasaw family arriving in Indian Territory during the 1830s removal from their homelands. The Arrival is a permanent fixture at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur.
The festival is free, and all are welcome. More than 4,500 art enthusiasts clogged the streets at last year’s inaugural gala.
For more information about the Artesian Arts Festival, contact the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts & Humanities at (580) 272-5520, visit http://chickasawcountry.com/events/view/artesian-arts-festival, email at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit The Artesian Plaza is located adjacent to the Artesian Hotel and Spa, 1001 W. First Street, Sulphur, Oklahoma.
Pursuit Of Passion
Greenwood is preparing, selecting art and working through a hectic schedule to show his works at the Artesian Arts Festival.For 19 years, Greenwood delivered the mail in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Despite a day job, the passion of painting fueled him forward and he has been active in the arts scene for many years.
“I always found time for my art, even when there wasn’t much time,” he said with a laugh.
Finally, it was decided that art would be his full-time work. The commissions were flowing in, his art show sales were up, he was finding a following among patrons and was accepted by his peers.
Then his “perfect-for-me” job appeared out of nowhere. For several years now he has served as Indian Education Program Assistant for Edmond Public Schools, working with Native and non-Native students. The job accords him the opportunity to teach at the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy, and allows a full slate of summer art show activities.
He has been featured in Chickasaw Nation “United We Thrive” television spots; appeared in a critically-acclaimed movie, “The Last of the Mohicans;” as well as an independent documentary film titled “I Said I Would Never Paint This Way Again.”