Our Beginnings

Pictured from left: Laura Marshall Clark, exhibition program manager, Chickasaw artists Margaret Roach Wheeler, Dan Worcester, Brent Greenwood, Joanna Underwood Blackburn and Kristen Dorsey.

Pictured from left: Laura Marshall Clark, exhibition program manager, Chickasaw artists Margaret Roach Wheeler, Dan Worcester, Brent Greenwood, Joanna Underwood Blackburn and Kristen Dorsey.

We are proud that the Visual Voices: Contemporary Chickasaw Art exhibition was launched by an all-Chickasaw artist board with the goal of introducing our art, history, and culture to the world. As working Chickasaw artists, our real life experiences informed this mission.

To understand who we are as artists, you must first understand our tribal nation’s connection to it’s Homelands in the Southeast. Our ancestors lived on beautiful lands spanning from northern Mississippi, western Tennessee, and northern Alabama. We call this region the Homelands, and it was filled with diverse habitats ranging from aquatic forests to prairies filled with wildflowers. Our ancestors developed agriculture systems, scientific innovation, a robust economy and rich cultural practices. City centers rose up around great earthworks called mounds. Our artists crafted copper, shell, fiber, wood, stones and pearls into objects of beauty and meaning. Our culture was constantly transforming and evolving as we reached new heights in artistic excellence. 

Images from a recent Homeland tour in Mississippi

The center of the Chickasaw Nation now sits in south central Oklahoma where we were removed to on what we call the Longest Walk, or the Trail of Tears. The Removal period is a dark chapter of American history. Many of our people died on this brutal journey to what is now called Oklahoma. These events impacted generations of Chickasaws, however, our ancestors were resilient—because of their strength, we are thriving today. We are now reconnecting to our Homelands and are the architects of a bright future.The artists in Visual Voices are actively revitalizing pieces of our culture, from the pottery of Joanna Underwood, to the finger weaving of Tyra Shackleford, to the shell carving of Dustin Mater, our ancestors sing through each piece.  

So far Visual Voices has traveled to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Norman, Okla., and the Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson. On August 16th it opens at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe. We invite you to join us for the opening festivities including the reception on the 16th at 5:00 pm and a special gallery talk with three artists at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, the 17th. 


-Kristen Dorsey, 

Vice Chair, Visual Voices Board of Directors