Artist links traditional with modern in First American art at 2024 Artesian Arts Festival | Community

Choctaw artist Candace Shanholtzer is gearing up for the Saturday, April 13, Artesian Arts Festival in this, its 11th year.

Shanholtzer’s first foray into the world of First American art markets was at the initial Artesian Arts Festival in which she says only about 35 artists participated. More than 100 artists are expected to show their works at this year’s festival in Sulphur, Oklahoma.

Shanholtzer says she had participated in art shows but had never shown her paintings at a venue exclusively reserved for First American artists. She admits it was a bit intimidating.

“The Artesian Arts Festival was the very first time I’d ever done a Native art show and market. I was nervous that first year and didn’t know what to expect,” she said.

Once there, her nerves were quickly calmed.

“I started meeting other artists, and they told me about other shows. Now, Native American art shows are all I do. It’s year-round for me now, and I enjoy it a lot. It was a direction I never saw my art career headed.”

Last year Shanholtzer participated in 13 such shows, the farthest away from her home in the tiny community of Joy, Oklahoma (between Wynnewood and Davis), was at Southwestern Association of Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“It was a busy year,” she said.

As a painter, Shanholtzer works in several media, including acrylic, watercolor, gouache (similar to watercolor except more opaque, she explained) and oil.

“I paint mostly animals from Oklahoma – bison, scissortail flycatchers, coyotes, crows, hummingbirds, foxes, pretty much anything that says Oklahoma,” she said.

Her love of painting animals combines with her Choctaw heritage, and its rich history and traditions.

“A lot of the animals I paint depict oral stories passed down,” she said. “Throughout time, those stories are passed from person to person, and we don’t have many visual representations for that.

“Sometimes I try to take those stories and then paint them to give those stories a visual representation. That’s what inspires part of it.”

Shanholtzer said her animals often develop a distinctive persona in the creative process.

“Sometimes I’ll paint animals and capture their real personality. Not all bison look alike. Not all coyotes look the same. There is something unique to each animal. I’ve studied lots of details on animals and I’ve gotten where I can tell their little personalities based on their looks.

“I have a general idea where the painting is going, but at the same time it’s almost like it comes to life on its own as I’m working on it.”

Shanholtzer said there is a Renaissance among Southeastern tribes and their symbolism involving swirls, sun circles and ogee motifs.

“I incorporate a lot of Southeastern symbolism into my works as well. I want to show a link with that traditional iconography that was kind of lost and portray it in a contemporary perspective,” she said.

Shanholtzer’s art will be on display at the Artesian Arts Festival.

The Artesian Arts Festival features diverse art media, music, dance and food. The art market showcases a variety of visual art including vibrant paintings, basketry, jewelry, sculpture, metalworking, bead work, textiles, pottery and more from talented First American artists from across the country.

Located on the beautiful Artesian Plaza in downtown Sulphur, Oklahoma, the Artesian Arts Festival is nestled among the Artesian Hotel and Spa, the Artesian Gallery and Studios, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and numerous boutiques and shops.

Artist booths line the Artesian Plaza, located adjacent to the Artesian Hotel and Spa.. The festival features musical entertainment, as well as First American dance demonstrations.

This family-friendly event also draws an eclectic mix of cuisine from local food trucks.

For more information, visit or call (580) 272-5520.

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