Release Date: June 09, 2020
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office
ADA, Okla. – Chickasaw artist Tyra Shackleford is one of several Chickasaw and Southeastern Indian artists engaging the nation virtually with their creations at ArtesianArtsFestival.com.
Shackleford is a master fabric weaver whose work is in museums, premiere American Indian arts festivals and in numerous private collections.
At the Artesian Online Art Market, a beaded stomp dance sash, regalia, dresses and other fine, handmade Shackleford garments await all.
Shackleford is one of the Chickasaw artists who have a significant influence on the national narrative of fashion design, adding creativity and a touch of elegance to traditional Chickasaw finery.
Shackleford said Margaret Roach Wheeler, an internationally renowned weaver and designer, is an inspiration. Wheeler, a Chickasaw, has a decades long career, which includes exhibits of her work in museums and collections globally.
Shackleford learned her most famed technique – called “sprang” – from Wheeler.
Recently, Shackleford scored her second museum-purchased piece, “Finger Woven Shawl,” which is proudly displayed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C.
It is an intricate, multicolored, lightning bolt shawl, one of the most difficult weaves an artist can undertake.
“I am very honored NMAI purchased the shawl and pleased it will be a part of a museum celebrating Native culture encompassing all of North America,” she said.
Shackleford’s “The Lady” earned the Harrison Eiteljorg Purchase Award at the Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana, two years ago. “The Lady” is one of the specialized “sprang” techniques of weaving shown to Shackleford by Wheeler.
“The Lady” was added to the Eiteljorg permanent museum collection but is on loan to “Visual Voices: Contemporary Chickasaw Art,” currently awaiting an opening date at the University of North Carolina. The piece is approximately 8 feet in length, elegantly displayed to hang as if a woman was wearing it.
While “Finger Woven Shawl” doesn’t quite have the elegant moniker of “The Lady,” Shackleford said the piece is one of the more difficult she has tackled.
“‘The Lady’ is a looser weave, and it flows. ‘Finger Woven Shawl’ is a tight weave. Both techniques require different skill sets, and each challenges me as an artist,” she said.
While Shackleford is employed by the Chickasaw Nation, the long list of arts festival cancellations she planned to attend – including the Santa Fe Indian Market – is taking a toll. Shackleford earned “Best of Show” and first place in textiles four years ago in Santa Fe. It is considered by many as the most important American Indian art market in the U.S.
”This year has been challenging for me, and I’m sure it is challenging for other artists as well. Collectively, artists gravitate toward people and you just cannot do that today without taking the necessary precautions,” she said, referring to the virus that has hobbled America.
“I am finding being isolated diminishes my creativity to an extent. Visiting with other artists, collaborating, planning and producing art in this lockdown does not fulfill the objective of sharing art with everyone. Thankfully, the Chickasaw Nation recognizes artistic needs and launched the website for Chickasaw and Southeastern Indian artists,” she added.
And, despite cancellations and responsible distancing, a commissioned piece is underway now that is sure to enhance Shackleford’s brand going into the future.
“I will be glad when we can gather again and present our creations, which honors the heritage, tradition and customs of American Indians,” she said.