Release Date: October 02, 2023
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office
OKLAHOMA CITY – Chickasaw artist Billy Hensley will have 12 pieces of art premiere in Bristol, United Kingdom, by the time he opens his booth at the Southeastern Art Show and Market (SEASAM).
Hensley’s brand of mixing abstract paintings with a touch of realism has appealed to art lovers and judges for more than a decade. This year’s SEASAM display will include artistic works not normally associated with the Sulphur native’s previous offerings.
Hensley is highlighting his broadening interest in crafting jewelry and beading.
Pendants featuring leather, beading and alligator garfish hide will be on tap for patrons visiting SEASAM, the Chickasaw Annual Meeting at Festival’s official art show and market. It opens in Tishomingo Oct. 6 and concludes Oct. 7.
Hensley offers a triplet of specialized jewelry to bowyers, complete with garfish hide and leather.
Cuffs are worn to protect shooters’ arms from the bowstring which can assault flesh when an arrow is released.
“Garfish are tough. A bunch of us went out to bag them using bows not long ago. People aren’t aware these animals are so tough you have to use scissors – metal nippers actually – in order to harvest their hide. You just cannot use a simple hunting knife,” Hensley said.
Hensley’s debut in the United Kingdom marks the first solo showing of his highly acclaimed work at a venue outside the United States.
The gallery showcasing Hensley’s plethora of fine art is called Rainmaker Gallery and is the only First American art gallery in England.
“I met the gallery’s owner about six years ago when I was attending the Indian Market in Santa Fe,” the 45-year-old master artist explained. “Joann Prince was interested in my work, and I have shown a few paintings at her gallery, but this is my first solo premiere.”
Bristol is located approximately three hours straight west of London.
The show began Sept. 21 and runs until Oct. 21.
“We are so fortunate to have Joann and Rainmaker Gallery request a solo premiere,” Hensley said. “To have this occur from a chance encounter six years ago is exciting.”
While Hensley explores new ways to express himself artistically, his desire to display the works of First American artists implored him to create “Collective Wisdom.”
Started a little more than a year ago, 25 artists came together to form “Collective Wisdom,” a consortium of First Americans representing tribal nations throughout America.
“While most are Southeastern Woodland tribal artists, there are participants from tribal nations outside of Oklahoma,” Hensley said of the joint venture.
Today, 46 artists are actively producing art.
“We are beginning phase two of ‘Collective Wisdom,’” Hensley stated. “Members work with a variety of styles and mediums. Everything from painting and drawing to textiles, pottery and metalsmithing. We have shown in several venues during the first phase and are working on a new slate of larger venues from a broader area in an effort to reach a wider audience,” he said.
“The goal of ‘Collective Wisdom’ is to blend the styles of unique and talented First American artists in a way that complements and highlights their individual strengths while producing new and exciting works of art. This collection of collaborative works comes together in a seamlessly cohesive way. I hope to help bring these talented artists and their works to the table, they are an incredibly talented group. I want to spark interest and conversation about what First American art is and how it ties together the past and present. What we are creating is relevant and important,” Hensley added.
Busy, Busy, Busy
“Collective Wisdom” just completed a showing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at FaraHNHeight Fine Arts Gallery, Hensley noted. About half of the 46 artists were featured during the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts market, considered the most prestigious First American art market in the nation.
The other half of “Collective Wisdom” showed works in June at Oklahoma’s own Red Earth Arts Festival, according to Hensley. The Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah also recently welcomed the group.
A showing of “Collective Wisdom” is planned at the University of North Texas (UNT) at Denton Nov. 1-25. It will be presented at the university’s CoLab facility on campus.
“They have a reception to meet artists Nov. 3, and everyone is excited about the opportunity. The university is introducing new studies concerning First Americans, and the show is in conjunction with its new academic plans,” Hensley said.
The Jacobson House, on the University of Oklahoma campus, will host “Collective Wisdom” in spring 2024.
Aside from his pet project of collaborating with renowned Chickasaw artists Brenda Kingery and Margaret Roach Wheeler – among others – Hensley is pretty booked up with his own creations.
Immediately following SEASAM, he will participate in the Cherokee Art Market Oct. 14-15 in Tahlequah; Hushtola Market, a new art venue hosted by the Chickasaw Nation, at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville Dec. 9-10; and Oklahoma City’s “Steamroller Festival” April 27.
“My wife, Melissa, has been wonderful helping ‘Collective Wisdom’ deliver and retrieve works before and after shows. We’re constantly on the go.”
Hensley was born in Pauls Valley but reared in Sulphur where he graduated high school. He and his wife currently reside in Norman and have five children, three sons, Dagen, Nolen and Hudson, and two daughters, Holly and Isla.
For more information about SEASAM, visit SEASAM.net.