Release Date: July 07, 2021
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office
WILSON, Okla. – Acclaimed Chickasaw painter and sculptor Lance Straughn – one of many artists showing works at the Artesian Online Art Market – will be honored by the Wilson Historical Society Sept. 18.
A dinner and special presentation of the Jim Miller Artistic and Cultural Award will take place in the southern Oklahoma community of 1,700 where Straughn was reared.
Miller was a rough and tumble oil field roughneck and lumberjack who discovered a knack for painting and sculpting.
Working from his studio outside of Wilson, he gained considerable national notoriety late in life for First American-themed art.
“I am very honored and humbled,” Straughn said. “Wilson holds a special place in the heart of the Straughn family.”
During nearly 16 months of COVID-19 self-isolation, Straughn completed one book and began working on a children’s book. He is also showing his special “spirit painting” technique – along with other works – at the Artesian Online Art Market. “I think I sold one painting last year,” he said. “I understand we had to be apart and festivals couldn’t operate normally. I missed visiting with art lovers and festivalgoers. There is no substitute for engaging with people face to face, and I’m looking forward to returning to normal.”
In June, Straughn published “Images in the Smoke,” a compilation book of Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Cheyenne and Sioux mythological stories handed down through centuries. “I was thrilled to write and illustrate the book. I am constantly amazed and delighted at stories passed down by First Americans. There is a timelessness to them. They are relevant to this day,” Straughn said.
Straughn is penning a children’s book. “So far, I am pleased with how it is progressing,” he added.
Five works of Straughn’s art are ready for viewing and possible purchase at the Artesian Online Art Market. “Pueblo Maiden” is a contemporary Straughn painting of a Zuni woman wrapped tightly in a blanket to ward off the cold of a New Mexico morning. Three other paintings – “Bear Clan Guardian,” “Panther Spirit” and “Good Medicine” – are what Straughn calls “spirit paintings,” a style he adopted in 2018 when he experienced a soul-searing epiphany.
Guided to paint a style previously unexplored, brush strokes transformed a canvas into his first “spirit painting” – a sacred white buffalo standing proud on the Oklahoma plains. He proclaimed it “Strong Medicine.” The painting stirred strong praise by critics and art lovers as a breakthrough technique
He explained the new style in 2018 saying: “I am at a loss for words on how to describe it. It has abstract elements and realism working in tandem. I suppose the abstract is more in the colors and in the backgrounds of my spirit paintings. My former style is what I would call realistic impressionism. Those painting weren’t meant to be photographic but are meant to look realistic.”
In the 2021 Artesian Online Art Market, the painting “Good Medicine” complements the earlier work “Strong Medicine.” It depicts a bison in a multitude of colors with a surreal background augmenting the painting’s brilliance.
“Panther Spirit” is in the same vein. It honors the Iksa’ Kowishto’ Losa’ Clan of the Chickasaw people. Pinks, blues, yellows and impressionistic colors flood the senses of viewers as the large animal gracefully descends a craggy escarpment.
A traditional wood sculpture of a bison – titled “Sacred Omen” – also is available to enjoy or purchase at ArtesianArtsFestival.com. It is intricately detailed in basswood and rests upon a marble presentation base. Straughn’s masterful paintings and exquisitely detailed sculptures have been exhibited at the Southeastern Art Show and Market, the Five Civilized Tribes Museum, Red Earth, Artesian Arts Festival and the Smithsonian Institution Museum of the American Indian’s “Chikasha Poya” offering in 2014.
Yet, nothing has thrilled – or frustrated – him more than exploring spirit painting and attempts to understand the forces guiding his art. Even with two years of exploration into the new method, Straughn remains emotionally moved and grateful he adopted the new technique.
Wilson Historical Society President Melinda Taylor said honoring Straughn’s work and contributions to the community was planned in late 2019 but COVID-19 forced cancellation of the 2020 presentation. The museum just recently reopened to the public after closing for 15 months, she said.
Straughn crafted a bronze bust of famed Wilson-born athlete Arthur “Skinny” Stewart and it is proudly displayed at the Wilson High School football field.
Stewart was one of the finest running backs of his day, winning Oklahoma All-State honors in 1944, All-Conference for Southeastern Oklahoma State University and was drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1951. He later retired and coached football in Wilson in the 1970s.
Art admirers and collectors may enjoy Straughn’s work at several online venues. They include ArtesianArtsFestival.com, LStraughn.com and Tribes131.com.