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Press Release

Release Date: September 28, 2018
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Artists are usually thought of in terms of hovering over their budding creations in subtly-lighted, cramped studios where their works wait for a final paint stroke before seeing the light of day.

Not so, the mural art of Chickasaw artist Karl Addison whose canvases are writ large on sunlit sides of buildings and whose studio is essentially the world. Mr. Addison’s murals can be viewed in a host of foreign locales, including Germany, Italy, Belgium, Japan, Malaysia, Israel, Russia, Mexico and Hong Kong, Greece, Syria and Pakistan.

His art can also be viewed closer to home in Georgia, Florida, California, Arizona and Washington. His most recent venue is closer still, in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, at the corner of Kemp and Main Streets on Houser Furniture’s western wall.

Brent Greenwood, fine arts director in the Chickasaw Nation Arts and Humanities Division, said he met Mr. Addison at the 2017 Chickasaw Meeting and Festival in Tishomingo.

“I became familiar with Karl Addison’s work last year at the festival and we knew this art initiative was something we wanted to do as a way of letting our voice be heard through public art,” Mr. Greenwood said.

Mr. Greenwood said one of the most important aspects of the mural project was student participation through the auspices of Chickasaw Arts Academy and the Chickasaw Young Artists Studio.

“It’s a student-driven project,” he said. “Karl worked with students on the basic hands-on information, so they wouldn’t be intimidated when they saw this huge wall.”

Participating students were Tvli Birdshead, Paige Busick, Kayela Lamb, Alex Van De Berg and Alyssa McGilbray.

Mr. Greenwood solicited input from the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce regarding ideas for an appropriate theme for the piece.

Local residents expressed confidence in the Chickasaw artists, which allowed Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Addison to share responsibility with the students. “(Community members) left it up to our creative freedom and expression,” Mr. Greenwood said. “With that, we said, ‘All right, students, it’s up to you. Reflect on what the area is about.’ We left it up to them.”

The end result is what Mr. Greenwood says is iconography consisting of Southeastern symbolism.

“The iconography is more or less the design elements you see in the background. The ‘scrollwork’ is often seen throughout southeastern pottery or carved gorgets,” he said.

“The particular elements you see in this mural represent movement and the connection we all have with our surroundings; hence the reason the designs flow in and out of the subject’s hair. The students took pictures of several Chickasaw ladies and liked this pose the best. The scissortail, cedar blooms and cascading Blue River are elements that reflect upon the area.”

Mr. Addison, 36, is originally from Tempe, Arizona. He says he also spends time in his studio there but enjoys the outdoor mural projects because they give him an opportunity to experiment on a larger scale.

Smaller, traditional handheld brushes are of little use in this style of art. Murals require sturdier application tools such as industrial floor-sweeping push brooms dabbed in buckets of exterior acrylic house paints. Liberal amounts of spray paint are also employed, which makes for a mixed medium.

Scaffolding to reach the required heights is a must.

The “industrial” nature of the application and its outdoor location do not diminish the Tishomingo mural’s value as art. “This is more of a contemporary painting,” Mr. Addison said. “It’s something you would expect to see in a museum, which you can see for free in your town.”

He said this project was a bit of a departure from his usual work because it relied so much on student input.

“This one is really different because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t creating the composition, but the students from the Chickasaw Nation were. I wanted them to take ownership of the subject matter, the composition, the execution.

“My role was to facilitate. How do you make a small sketch and blow it up to a 50 foot wall, 17 feet high? That’s a daunting task.”