Thompson Williams’ painting “Medicine Man” reflects a spirit running much deeper than the thin layers of acrylic paint it brings to life.

Holistic medicine has long been a part of the Native American culture.

“You can treat the body but if the spirit and mind don’t go with you, it takes a long time to heal,” said Williams, of Caddo and Comanche heritage.

Mind, body and spirit integrate holistically in Thompson’s brushstrokes. His creativity seems organic, flowing from a deep personal reservoir.

Williams’ paintings are part of the White Stallion Studio 2005 Holiday Fine Art Show, which runs from noon to 6 p.m. today at the Oklahoma Native Art Gallery on the lower level of the Miller-Jackson Building beside the Bricktown Canal.

Edmond artists Susie Johnston, Stephen Mauldin, Thompson and Rhonda Williams join Brent and Kennetha Greenwood in the show. More than 25 Oklahoma artists are displaying their paintings, basketry, pottery, sculpture and handcrafted items.

“Medicine Man” is a painting rich in hue with whitish grey brushstrokes rendering a majestic American Indian profile.

The medicine man wears a headdress amid turquoise heavens and stars.

Williams was inspired to paint “Medicine Man” when listening to a CD by Taos flutist Robert Mirabal about a medicine man dedicated to his people. Mirabal’s music portrayed a medicine man who had married his people rather than an individual.

“I was inspired to kind of create that in my mind’s eye,” Williams explained.

Warriors on horse back are often associated in paintings of American Indians, said Williams, whose paintings focus on the spiritual heritage of his ancestry.

“One of the things we don’t get to see too much of ... is our involvement with nature, our involvement with inner-spirit inside an individual,” he continued, “where we get to experience what’s in their hearts and in their minds.”

“Emotion” is a painting by Thompson’s wife Rhonda Williams. A cross in the center of the painting evokes spirituality while lines of energy pass through hands. The ribbon work depicts the geometrical and floral designs of Rhonda’s native Otoe-Missouria tribe.

Lines of energy symbolize what a person gives or receives. Hands are positioned to capture or release the energy.

A red drip line represents the pain caused by change that her people have experienced.

“As change comes, the hands also represent the letting go and accepting the new,” Rhonda said.

Thompson said art transcends being a decorative addition to a home that some people purchase to blend in with the color of a sofa.

“Art is more of a communication,” he said. “Art is something that communicates a message to different individuals. And it has always been so. The sculpture and stained glass — everything that was done in the cathedrals — were used to convey messages of Biblical times.”

Artists evaluating their success based on profit are misleading themselves, he added.

Much more, he explained, they can bring light to issues such as poverty, abuse or neglect to help dispel social indifference where life is taken for granted.

“Art brings that out. It says ‘This is what society is. If you haven’t seen it, this is what it looks like,’” he said.

Until a decade ago, his paintings were merely an outlet for his feelings.

Then he was invited to be part of Dallas art show and began enjoying sharing his work with others.

The Bricktown art show was motivated by the lack of opportunities for Native American artists to exhibit their work.

“Many people don’t know what local treasures exist in this state,” Thompson said. “When we are in other shows we hear the same thing, ‘We buy our art from Santa Fe.’”

However, many of the artists who exhibit in Santa Fe are Oklahomans. The White Stallion Studio is a working studio in Edmond owned by the Williams.

Rhonda’s sister Kennetha Greenwood said art serves humanity by serving an importance beyond beauty and art for art’s sake.

“It conveys a lot of messages depending on the artist,” Kennetha said of her Otoe-Missouria heritage. “It can be a political piece. It can be something the artist enjoyed doing, want to share, conveys a mood.”

Tradition is a vital part of her paintings, she said. Nature’s influence thrives in her work in moods reflecting when the Otoe-Missouria lived among the woodlands of what is now Nebraska.

Still, flowers and hummingbirds are complimented by more contemporary paintings of native women in modern dress.

Paintings of Native Americans wear ’70s-style shirts show her work isn’t locked in antiquity when reflecting Native American life through the ages.

“It doesn’t explain anything about our tradition, but yet it tells people there is more sides to us than are traditional side,” Kennetha said.

There is the life of a painting rendered by the artist, and in turn, the life of painting interpreted by the viewer. Kennetha’s husband Brent Greenwood’s contemporary paintings of faceless figures invite the viewers “to see who they want to see.”

(Features Editor James Coburn may be reached via e-mail at jcoburn@edmondsun.com.)

Recommended for you