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Press Release

Release Date: May 16, 2019

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office



  • “Conductors of Our Own Destiny,” a buffalo robe created from buffalo hide, acrylic paint and beads by Northern Arapaho/Seneca artist Dallin Maybee.

  • Northern Arapaho/Seneca artist Dallin Maybee is one of the more than 100 native artists participating in the Artesian Arts Festival May 25 in Sulphur, Oklahoma. Maybee will present an artist talk titled “Ledger Art & Bison Robes: A Contemporary Perspective” at 3:40 p.m. at the Artesian Gallery and Studios during the festival.

Melding traditional art with contemporary themes, Northern Arapaho/Seneca artist Dallin Maybee has forged his own path in the art world.

In his works, warriors ride horses beside SpongeBob’s seahorse and Japanese armor designs intermingle with traditional Native imagery. Vivid colors, beads and feathers are employed to feature bison together with planes, trains and automobiles.

A multidimensional artist, Maybee does not limit himself to one medium. He creates “a little bit of everything,” working in jewelry, exotic fur, buffalo hide, beadwork and silverwork.

His works have been named “Best of Show” in several prestigious art markets across the country, and can be found in museum and private collections worldwide, including the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

“A lot of my art forms are very contemporary interpretations of very traditional mediums,” he said during a telephone interview while traveling across Utah.

Maybee, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, will be showcasing his vast array of works, along with more than 100 other Native American artists, at the 2019 Artesian Arts Festival in downtown Sulphur, Oklahoma, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday, May 25.

This will be his first appearance at the Artesian Arts Festival. Besides greeting festival patrons at his booth, Maybee will present an artist talk titled “Ledger Art & Bison Robes: A Contemporary Perspective” at 3:40 p.m. at the Artesian Gallery and Studios during the festival.

Learning to create

A self-described “doodler” as a child, Maybee learned the art of beadwork, feather work and leatherwork by “trial and error” as a pre-teen Pow Wow dancer attempting to emblazon his dance regalia.

“My mom is a talented seamstress and tailor, so I had someone to help me with sewing, but all the rest of the outfit I had to figure out on my own. It was really outfit construction that gave me the foundation for a lot of the stuff that I do today.”

Primarily known as a bead worker for many years, Maybee expanded his repertoire to include bags, moccasins, medallions, fans, ledger art, oil painting, illustration, hand drums, elaborate bison robes with beaded center strips, oil painting and carving. He also creates men’s and women’s gold and silver jewelry using his carving skills for fabrication.

“Even in the outfit construction that I’ve done, I’ve never felt like I wanted to look like everyone else, so I’ve worked very hard to create a look and imagery and design elements that are very much my own.”

Maybee’s art is a reflection of his personality and life experiences.

Growing up on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in western New York State, after high school Maybee moved to Utah to pursue a college degree. Soon, an opportunity to travel with the American Indian Dance Theatre beckoned and he decided to take a one-year break from his studies to see the world.

“Pretty soon, my yearlong break stretched into six or seven years and I realized I needed to go back to school.

“(Traveling with the dance company) gave me a great global perspective because I was able to travel and see the world, but I also knew I wanted to do some other stuff with the consistency of having a good job.”

He earned a degree in philosophy and a Juris doctorate in Federal Indian Law and Economic Development from Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law. His work experience includes prosecuting, law enforcement and most recently serving as executive director of the Southwestern Assoc. for Indian Arts, the nonprofit that produces the storied Santa Fe Indian Market.

He is currently working with the Native American Rights Fund.

What’s Old Is New Again

Maybee reflected on the lesson he learned from the development of a square hand drum that eventually morphed into a SpongeBob SquarePants hand drum.

“That really recognizable four-sided sponge shape had arms that were the drumsticks. You could take them off to play the drums.”

Naturally, a Patrick drum was also made to accompany his best buddy, SpongeBob.

“I thought it was very original, a SpongeBob SquarePants hand drum. But I went to the National Museum of American Indian in New York and in one of their permanent displays, Chief Sitting Bull had a square hand drum that he used in ceremonies. I was pretty shocked but pleased at the same time to know I was in good company,” he chuckled.

By creating whimsical pieces, like SpongeBob or an adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are,” he hopes to inspire the next generation of artists to also forge their own path.

“When I do those whimsical kinds of pieces, I want younger artists to push and explore the boundaries of what is acceptable and tell their own story. Do what is compelling to them. Not just copying and mimicking the artists who have gone before. There is nothing wrong with maintaining those traditional art forms, (but) where there isn’t a scripted narrative, why not push those boundaries?”

For more information about the Artesian Arts Festival visit chickasaw.net/artesianfest, or call 580-272-5520.