I finished this painting last week, and my plan is to take it with my to showcase as the RAW Natural Born Artists show at the end of the month. The inspiration for this piece is here— my home— where my great-grandmothers were young women in the teens, twenties and thirties, enjoying fashion and music and pop culture through the lens of living out on the plains of Oklahoma, where oil derricks and endless rows of telegraph lines dotted the landscape.
I thought it was important too to show some young women who were not the blue eyed, blond haired white girl stereotype of the era. There were lots of different girls of different races, colors, mixes and backgrounds who made their mark on the past. The idea for this piece was sort of a mash-up of old photos of my great-grandma Pansy and her friends standing by a dusty road and field in the late 20s wearing the most glamorous coats as well as the girls who went to a local Indian school and photos I had seen of them.
An interesting bit of trivia is— the grounds of my old high school were once the grounds of an Indian mission school. Students from several tribes would come into town and go to school there until they were integrated in the 1940s. Some of the students were full blood, some mixed blood, some Cherokee, some Creek, some Euchee, some Muskogee. When I worked at the local paper I remember pouring over old photos from the Mission School, the girls with their glossy dark hair tied back in big ribbons in their ‘modern’ basketball uniforms (rumor was, those girls were good ball players!) All these little sparks of ideas have come together to make this painting…
I hope you like it! I haven’t yet decided on a title. I wanted to make three very distinct girls with their own look, but still very much the look of their era. And I love the look of old varsity sweaters! And although I look at this painting with a certain preconceived idea, that doesn’t mean its right. These girls with their different complexions and features could be from a variety of backgrounds. It’s up to the viewer to give them their story. That’s the fun of my painting. It means something unique to everyone!
If you’d like to see this piece and several others in person, you can see them at the RAW show on June 21st in Tulsa, Okla. I still have a lot of tickets to sell, and so I would love to sell you one! You just go online and order your ticket and select me (Heather Sleightholm) as your artist. I’d love to see you there!