SULPHUR, Oklahoma – Artist Chickasaw Brent Greenwood, with help from his son Me-Way-Seh Hunter Greenwood, put the finishing touches on a downtown Sulfur mural inspired by Mahota Textiles on Saturday, October 17.
Pedestrians and drivers can see the colorful public art around the corner of Muskogee Ave. and West 3rd St. – on the brick wall on the east side of Mahota Textiles. The scene at the front of the mural offers a wide view of the street and the morning sun hits the room just right, Greenwood said.
South-central Oklahomans may already be familiar with Greenwood’s mural work. Along with fellow muralist Yatika Fields, students from the Academy of the Arts in Greenwood and Chickasaw covered the side of the old Ada News building. Each person added to the design, and Greenwood’s final contribution was a performance of âBaby Yoda,â which became a popular place to stop and take a photo.
Margaret Roach Wheeler, founder of Mahota Textiles, enjoyed seeing Greenwood’s works. So when the idea of ââproducing a Mahota mural came up during a conversation with the artist, she knew they were on to something.
âWe were just talking jokingly, but it became a reality,â Greenwood said. “I told Margaret, now that we start working on it, she will have the first contemporary mural here in Sulfur. She will really stand out.”
And it does, with vibrant magenta, red, blue, yellow, and orange.
The designs and images of Greenwood incorporated into the piece were taken from designs by Wheeler, Taloa Underwood and Joanna Underwood Blackburn. Their work can be seen on fashionable handbags, pillows and blankets from Mahota Textiles.
For the mural, these images crossed Greenwood’s color palette and style. Solar circles are dotted across the sky and the waves of a river stretch horizontally. Sweet hay stalks shoot out in the middle, and two woodpeckers are perched like bookends.
âThey took four of their cover designs; I took my color scheme and my aesthetic, and we did kind of a mashup,â Greenwood said. “It gave them what they wanted while also incorporating my painting style. It represents the earth and the sky, natural elements, things taken from their covers.”
To visually express a sense of balance, Greenwood used both spray paint and latex paint.
âWith spray painting, it’s like an airbrush. It has a softer feel. To balance that with contrasting opaque latex, it has a nice balance,â he said.
Home Depot and Lowe’s are common stops for restocking, Greenwood said. For this project, he was happy to have the ARTesian gallery and studios – his source of art spray paints – just a block away.
âThey have high end quality paints. It’s great to have them there and available. It’s for more crafty applications,â Greenwood said.
In the world of public art, nothing is permanent. In addition to the natural deterioration of sun and rain, even a change of tenant or a little construction can wash away a painting. But that doesn’t stop Greenwood from going the extra mile to keep his job longer.
âWe understand it’s temporary but, at the same time, with Mahota, they’ve wanted it up there for a long time,â he said. “So I prepare the wall, I strip the loose paint, I polish, I prime the areas. By elevating it to a more refined art, we want it to last.”
Greenwood invites the public to come and discover his new mural. It’s like visiting an open-air, socially distanced museum, after all. To see and meet her inspirations for the mural, go inside and visit the ladies at Mahota Textiles, open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.
A native of Oklahoman and a contemporary artist with Chickasaw and Ponca heritage, Greenwood was born in Midwest City, Oklahoma. He graduated in Fine Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of Oklahoma City.
His artistic journey with the Chickasaw Nation began over 20 years ago as a tribal artist.
He started teaching at Chickasaw Arts Academy in 2013 and was appointed Chickasaw Nation Director of Fine Arts in 2017. He now runs Chickasaw Arts Academy and other programs including arts education, outreach, workshops and student initiatives.
âI was able to use what I learned over the years. We have a lot of budding young artists who just need direction, and I know exactly where they are coming from because I was there too. “, did he declare.
He also maintains the work as a freelance commissioned artist. Even early in his career as a rural mailman with the United States Postal Service serving as a means of paying the bills, he worked as an artist.
“I consider myself first and foremost as an artist. It’s my passion. It’s what I love to do. It will always be there,” he said.
He is known for more than his art called “graffiti”. His figurative works in vibrant acrylic paints are a staple of his designs, but he is also known for his great book, printmaking, and mixed media. His originals and prints adorn many tribal installations and have even been applied to a Pendleton blanket sold exclusively at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulfur.
Regarding his mural work and student mentorship, Greenwood said there are new plans and tempting walls in Ada and Sulfur. He hopes to spark creativity in those who see public art.
“Public art engages the community. It encourages and promotes the arts. It enhances the community, it spawns other projects, it leads to beautification. It is visual expression for the community in a public setting,” Greenwood said. “It’s free. It’s not in a museum. You don’t have to pay to see it. It’s there if you want to see it. That’s what makes public art so great.”