Vol. LII No. 12
December 2017

Artwork unveiled for Legislative chamber; Mrs. McManus honored

ADA, Okla. - Two art pieces were unveiled Nov. 17 during a ceremony honoring the late Chickasaw legislator Dean McManus.

Chickasaw artists Dustin Mater and Brent Greenwood unveiled their commissioned art pieces to the Chickasaw legislature. Mrs. McManus was herself memorialized in one of the works.

The artists had been commissioned by the Legislature earlier this year to create separate triptychs (set of three works) to hang in the Legislative chambers.

Both pieces are steeped in Chickasaw history, symbols and culture, and tell a unique story about the Chickasaw Nation.

Mr. Mater created “The Council.” The work painstakingly details 1500s tribal leaders, dressed in period regalia and debating the fate of Hernando de Soto and his men.

“Historically, the council would have been men around this time, and women would have been regulated to the background, Mr. Mater said.

“But, I wanted to acknowledge the current sitting of the (Chickasaw) legislator, with one extra woman in the painting to symbolize the late, great Dean McManus.”

Mr. Mater explained when he presented the concept design, Mrs. McManus remarked about the hairstyle of one of the women.

“She asked, ‘so it wasn’t just space princesses and Hopi women, but also us that had that hair style,’?” Mr. Mater said.

Mrs. McManus also observed the ceremonial mace in the painting, and remarked the Legislature once used a mace to indicate who had the floor during sessions.

“It was an honor to be a part of her last days and to make her laugh,” Mr. Mater said. “Thank you again for this opportunity.”

Mr. Greenwood said the mission of his three panel art piece was to “demonstrate the qualities the government has bestowed upon our people, with leadership and all those things that helped bring us to where we are today. My piece embodies all those elements of our culture. The tradition of antiquity and those influences we use today.”

The three pieces, which flow together but also serve as stand-alone paintings, include a nod to Chickasaw ceremonies as well as the Chickasaw Legislature from Indian Territory. The center panel reflects an antiquity focus on Chickasaw leaders to honor the lawmakers.

Mr. Greenwood incorporated earth elements and Chickasaw motif throughout the paintings. Chevron designs, influenced by the design in finger-woven belts, a swan feather cape, sun circles and clouds painted to represent mound-builders are all featured.

Detailing the work and his creative process, Mr. Greenwood said, “I became fully engaged. I wanted something that would speak toward our Chickasaw people and that would be around a lot longer than we are, to inspire others to share the addition of the voices of our people.”

Mrs. McManus died in March 2017 while serving as a Chickasaw Legislator. She had served in the office since 1999. Prior to her legislative service, Mrs. McManus worked as a trainer and in other capacities at the tribe. She started her career with the tribe in 1975.

The artwork now hangs in the Chickasaw Nation Legislative Building, 801 N. Mississippi in Ada.