Choctaw artists artwork at Choctaw Landing

The artwork of Choctaw artists can be found throughout the new Choctaw Landing Hochatown.

Choctaw Landing features Choctaw art

By Shelia Kirven
July 2, 2024

Choctaw Nation partnered with Choctaw artists nationwide to create original artwork for the new Choctaw Landing in Hochatown, Oklahoma.

The resort proudly displays over 40 pieces of original art throughout the location, over 600 pieces of artwork throughout guest rooms, and two large exterior sculptures to be installed this summer.

Artists whose work can be viewed at the new venue include Jane Semple Umsted, Connie Phillips, Eveline Steels, Brenner Billy, Sarah Sense, Wani Marshall Coker, Gene Smith, Steven Paul Judd, Kristin Gentry, Timothy Nevaquaya, Gwen Coleman Lester, Gregg Standridge, Karen Clarkson, Bobby Von Martin, Dylan Cavin, Courtney Sisneros, Bob Proctor, Laura Moore, Emily Bloomquist, Presley Byington, Michael Rose, Kaleb Standridge, Aliyah Myers and Beckah Boykin.

Several artists were recently interviewed and talked about what it was like to be a Choctaw artist and how the tribe has influenced their art careers.

Kristin Gentry is a national award-winning artist in fine art, photography, curation and writing. Gentry is passionate about using her art to create different ways to preserve her culture. According to Gentry, being Choctaw has had a huge influence on her work.

“Being Choctaw has influenced me every step of the way for my art from the beginning of my artist career. It became part of a cultural reclamation for me to learn more about my culture and myself as a Choctaw person, as a Choctaw woman,” said Gentry. “I’ve been able to use my art to do that, and I also get to use my art to teach others that as well through it.”

Artist and vocational therapist Emily Bloomquist has a Sioux City, Iowa studio. She has done art since her childhood. “I never get tired of making art.” Her favorite medium is working with wood, and she said that being Choctaw has always influenced her art.

Brenner Billy’s family history and culture inspire his art. He makes stickball sticks and enjoys working with stone, wood and shell. Working with his hands and making functional art pieces are important to him.

According to Billy, being Choctaw greatly influences his work. “It’s everything. It’s everything I’ve ever known,” said Billy. “It’s part of tradition to keep moving forward.”

Eveline Steele is a well-known basket weaver from McCurtain County and was born and raised there. She said basketry started with her grandmother but more likely her great-grandmother.

“It’s been a part of my family as far back as I can remember. Now I’m teaching my two boys,” said Steele.

Steele has been weaving baskets herself for over thirty years, working with both natural and purchased dyes.

Connie Phillips has always gifted her art to family, but only in the last ten years has she begun doing art for others. She works in oils, watercolor, and acrylics, and she has worked with leather and even created saddles for the NFR. She tries to take a realism story and turn it into an abstract style.

“I think it’s more powerful to me. A photograph is realism, and I don’t know that that really tells the story as much as if you can break out of that, painting something exactly like it looks in reality to something that tells what it feels like,” said Phillips. “I guess that’s what I do, tell more of what it feels like.”

According to Phillips, being Choctaw has completely influenced her work, and she knows her piece is finished when she cries.
“When I feel the tears coming, then I’m finished with that piece, and I know that,” said Phillips.
Wani Marshall Coker has been an art teacher for the past 25 years but has been making art for as long as she can remember. She teaches sculpture and 3D art.

Coker is inspired by people around her, especially children and their energy. She loves using bold colors, having learned first to paint with oils, then acrylics, and now is painting again with oils. Her great-grandfather was a Choctaw Code Talker.

According to Coker, it is a privilege to carry on the stories, and while she is sharing them, she is also learning them.

Courtney Sisneros was inspired by her great-grandfather, who lived with her family occasionally. According to Sisneros, he was always drawing and still has some of his drawings today. She enjoys working with clay, ceramics and paints.

“It’s natural,” said Sisneros. “You can go out and dig clay from the earth, and you can mold it into anything you want to.”

According to Sisneros, being Choctaw influences her work in every way, and her heritage and culture are in all her artwork.

Gregg Standridge said he must create, has been a musician for a long time, and does woodwork and art. Being Choctaw gave him the inspiration to delve into the history of the tribe and look for materials to tell stories with by the legends of the Choctaw Nation. He said his art has evolved over time. He started as a musician, has a master’s degree in classical guitar, and integrates his music into all he does with visual art. He also writes.

“All of those things integrate into each other,” said Standridge. said. “I’m always assessing and evolving and looking back. It’s all really, really wired together, and I will never be done with the journey, I’m sure, but it’s really fun to keep getting better at it.”