Release Date: July 01, 2020

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

SULPHUR, Okla. – Mary Ruth Barnes – a Chickasaw artist, author, photographer, storyteller, philanthropist, historic preservationist and 2015 Chickasaw Nation Dynamic Woman of the Year – will be among the creators participating in the new Artesian Online Art Market (AOAM) during its inaugural year.

Barnes is no stranger to First American and Oklahoma art scenes. She has dedicated years to teaching art and attending events, markets and festivals.

She is known for her flowing, free-style, vibrant depictions of outdoor scenes, First Americans and horses. Her specialties are watercolor and acrylic painting.

Some of her paintings are available for viewing or purchasing now at These works include “Three Spirits - Power, Grace and Speed,” “Feelin’ Lucky” and “Unconquerable,” among others.

The website also accommodates communication with artists like Barnes, who said she has had rewarding experiences at art events where she can reach out to all audiences and listen to their reactions to her art, while discovering new ideas from fellow artists.

Contact information is provided with each artist listing. Barnes said she has already received many interesting questions from browsing art enthusiasts, and she hopes no one feels reluctant to reach out.

Barnes’ love for nature comes to life in her artwork, which is influenced by her Chickasaw family and experiences with storytelling. She said her art is a reflection of the colorful stories her Chickasaw grandfather shared.

“His storytelling painted the most beautiful pictures in my mind, and now I am able to put them to canvas,” she said.

She credits her mother and grandfather for guiding her path as a creative and expressive Chickasaw. She said her mother, Ruby Scott, taught her to always walk the Chickasaw way and her grandfather, Harry McSwain, taught her the importance of an education and hard work.

“I really like telling historical stories from my childhood, remembering my experiences with nature. My grandfather encouraged me to listen to the birds, feel the earth move under our feet as the horses ran across the field,” she said.

Barnes said she believes creative expression keeps the mind strong and adds to a vibrant life.

“Painting is a reflection of our lives. It reveals that life is not just in black and white. Life is in color. We need to see it, reveal it and paint it. My paintings are full of color, brightness and boldness,” she said.

“I set aside daily time, because painting is an important goal…a way of life,” she continued.

“I believe that it is the most peaceful part of my day when I paint. It gets me out of my head and into the most absolute moments of creativity. This brightens my day and my whole outlook on life,” Barnes said.

Art enthusiasts following Barnes’ creative history will notice how often horses show up in her work. With subject matter like a jockey from a modern horse race or a Chickasaw ancestor and his trusty steed, her equestrian appreciation shines through.

Barnes has received several awards for her art, as well as her work with the American Cancer Society. She is a longtime fixture in the southeastern Oklahoma art scene, with years of experience teaching acrylics and watercolors across the Chickasaw Nation.

Her paintings can be found out in the world at places like the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center and the ARTesian Gallery & Studios. She teaches and demonstrates at clubs and groups, notably offering a free weekly art class to Chickasaw elders.

As part of her humanitarian work, Barnes raised more than $35 million in estate gifts for cancer research through her role as American Cancer Society Director of Planned Giving for Oklahoma and southwest Missouri. For these efforts she was awarded “Top Performer of the Nation” for the American Cancer Society in 2012 and 2014.

She has a bachelor’s degree in English from North Carolina State University and a master’s degree in education from Montana State University.

Extremely active in her community through the Ada Chamber of Commerce and Ada Rotary, she was past president of Ada’s Business and Professional Women, where she received the Woman of the Year Award in 2006. Barnes has served on her church board, Rotary board, the executive board of Boy Scouts of America and the Ada Arts Council executive board, and taught Sunday school.

About the Artesian Online Art Market

Chickasaw and Southeastern First American art will find a home virtually during the Artesian Online Art Market, available at until July 31.

According to James Wallace, director of visual arts media and design for the Chickasaw Nation Arts & Humanities Division, the variety of art available from distinguished Chickasaw and Southeastern First American artists exhibits the same high quality creative beauty patrons are accustomed to with events like the Artesian Arts Market and Southeastern Art Show and Market.

The Chickasaw Nation is hosting the site, and each artist can display up to five pieces of art that are available for purchase. Those transactions are made between the artist and the buyer.

The website offers art lovers, collectors and buyers a way to augment art collections with additional items from their favorite First American artists. Wallace recommended keeping an eye open for work by up-and-coming creators.

Chickasaw and other Southeastern First American artists may contact Wallace at for information on how to join the Artesian Online Art Market or for other inquiries.