Greenwood transforms fashion designs into public street art with new Mahota Textiles mural
Muralist and son complete downtown Sulphur piece
October 23, 2020
SULPHUR, Okla. – Chickasaw artist Brent Greenwood, with the help of his son Me-Way-Seh Hunter Greenwood, put the finishing touches on a downtown Sulphur mural inspired by Mahota Textiles Saturday, Oct. 17.
Pedestrians and drivers can view the brightly colored public art at the corner of Muskogee Ave. and West 3rd St. – on the east side brick wall of Mahota Textiles. The stage area at the front of the mural offers a wide street view and the morning sun hits the piece just right, Greenwood said.
South-central Oklahomans may already be familiar with Greenwood's mural work. Along with fellow muralist Yatika Fields, Greenwood and Chickasaw Arts Academy students covered the side of the former Ada News building. Each person added to the design, and Greenwood's final contribution was a depiction of "Baby Yoda," which has become a popular spot to stop and take a photo.
Margaret Roach Wheeler, the founder of Mahota Textiles, enjoyed seeing Greenwood's artwork. So when the idea of producing a Mahota mural was floated during a chat with the artist, she knew they were onto something.
"We were just jokingly talking but it became a reality," Greenwood said. "I told Margaret, now that we're actually getting to work on it, she'll have the first contemporary mural here in Sulphur. It's really going to stand out."
And it does, with vibrant magenta, red, blue, yellow and orange.
The motifs and imagery Greenwood incorporated into the piece were drawn from the designs of Wheeler, Taloa Underwood and Joanna Underwood Blackburn. Their work can be seen on the fashionable purses, pillows and blankets of Mahota Textiles.
For the mural, these images passed through Greenwood's color palette and style. Sun circles are dotted across the sky and the waves of a river extend horizontally. Stalks of sweet grass shoot up through the middle and two woodpeckers are perched like bookends.
"They took four of their blanket designs; I took my color palette and my aesthetics, and we did a kind of mashup," Greenwood said. "It gave them what they wanted while incorporating my style of painting. It represents earth and sky, natural elements, things taken from their blankets."
To visually express a sense of balance, Greenwood used both spray paint and latex paint.
"With spray painting, it's like an air brush. It has a softer touch. To balance that with contrasting, opaque latex -- it has a nice balance," he said.
Home Depot and Lowe's are common stops for resupplies, Greenwood said. For this project, he was pleased to have the ARTesian Gallery and Studios – his source for fine art spray paints – just a block away.
"They have quality, top-of-the-line paints. It has been great having it right there and available. It is for more artful applications," Greenwood said.
In the world of public art, nothing is permanent. In addition to the natural deterioration from sun and rain, even a change of tenant or a bit of construction can erase a painting. But this doesn't stop Greenwood from putting in extra effort to keep his work around longer.
"We understand it's temporary but, at the same time, with Mahota they want it up there for a long time," he said. "So I'm prepping the wall, I'm stripping loose paint, I'm buffing, I'm priming areas. Elevating it to a finer art, we do want it to last."
Greenwood invites the public to swing by and check out his new mural. It is akin to visiting an open air and socially distanced museum, after all. To see and meet his inspirations for the mural, head inside and visit with the ladies of Mahota Textiles, open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
A native Oklahoman and contemporary artist of both Chickasaw and Ponca heritage, Greenwood was born in Midwest City, Oklahoma. He is a graduate in fine arts disciplines from the Institute of American Indian Arts and Oklahoma City University.
His artistic journey with the Chickasaw Nation began more than 20 years ago as a tribal artist.
He started teaching at the Chickasaw Arts Academy in 2013 and was appointed Chickasaw Nation Director of Fine Arts in 2017. He now facilitates the Chickasaw Arts Academy and other programming, including arts education, outreach, workshops and student initiatives.
"I've been able to employ what I've learned over the years. We have a lot of budding young artists that just need some direction, and I know exactly where they are coming from because I was there too," he said.
He also maintains work as an independent artist on commission. Even early in his career as a rural letter carrier with the United States Postal Service serving as a means to pay bills, he worked as an artist.
"I consider myself an artist first. That's my passion. That's what I love to do. That's always going to be there," he said.
He is known for more than his so-called "graffiti" art. His figurative works in vibrant acrylic paints are a staple among his creations, but he also is known for his ledger, printmaking and mixed media art. His originals and prints adorn numerous tribal facilities and even have been applied to a Pendleton blanket sold exclusively at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur.
As for his mural work and student mentorship, Greenwood said there are new plans and tempting walls in Ada and Sulphur. He hopes to spark creativity in those who view public art.
"Public art engages the community. It encourages and fosters the arts. It enhances the community, it spawns other projects, it leads to beautification. It's a 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."