Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Native artist, RV snowbird Mary Ruth Barnes

Mary Ruth Barnes by her 5th wheel in Rockport, TX  (Julianne G. Crane)
During the cold winter months in south central Oklahoma, Chickasaw artist Mary Ruth Barnes travels with her husband, Mike, to the Coastal Bend of Texas for fishing, warm weather and good RV snowbird friends.

Artist Mary Ruth Barnes in outdoor studio. (Julianne G. Crane)
Almost every day while in Texas, Mary Ruth can be spotted painting in the fresh air studio she set up alongside the Barnes' 2014 38-foot Cedar Creek 5th wheel trailer. 

"Art has been a heritage I learned from my grandfather, a Chickasaw story teller," says Mary Ruth. "He would often paint beautiful pictures in my mind as he taught me about love and caring, enkindling nature as the basis for love."

"My art is my passage into my history and my culture.  I paint to revive the stories he told me and give a continuation of my culture to my children and my grandchildren."

'Color Me Native,' gouache watercolor - Mary Ruth Barnes
"With each story he told me, I try to retell it in my images of the horse, the buffalo, the white dog, the eagle, and the turtle," she continues.

"It is a time for me to bring honor to all the Chickasaw people by creating art that is more than something just seen; art is color depicted from my heart and visually displayed on canvas to honor our forefathers. It is my legacy and my continuum in being the best Native American I can be."

'Native Free' watercolor on paper - Mary Ruth Barnes
Mary Ruth has received many honors including being selected as Chickasaw Dynamic Woman of the year for 2015.  She is one of 20 featured in "Chickasaw Women Artisans" by Alison Fields, a hardback book published in 2016 by the Chickasaw Press.

One of her short stories and watercolors were featured in the Spring issue of the Chickasaw History and Culture Ishtunowa journal. She was honored as a Chickasaw Artist in the July 2015 issue of Distinctly Oklahoma magazine. She was selected for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Chickasaw Dynamic Woman Forum.

During the months of January and February 2017, "Native Free," (see left) a watercolor on paper, was on exhibit at the Center for the Arts in Rockport, Texas.

Her paintings can be seen hanging in the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center; new Artesian Hotel; Davis, Oklahoma, Welcome Center; and Chickasaw Nation offices in Oklahoma City.

Painting on buffalo head - Mary Ruth Barnes


To read more about Mary Ruth and Mike Barnes' RVing to the gulf coast of Texas, click here.

-- Text and photos by Julianne G. Crane (Click on images to enlarge.)

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