A Painter of Heritage

Although Native American artist, Thompson Williams, has since left Edmond to start a new life in Colorado, his roots in Oklahoma and the artistic inspiration he received while living in his home state still remain strong.

Williams, a member of the Caddo nation and award-winning, nationally recognized Native American artist, was drawn to art at a very young age. In fact, it seemed to run in his family. His father was a draftsman at Tinker Air Force Base and his siblings pursued drawing and painting, with his sister specifically demonstrating the beauty of art.

“I always did a lot of drawing, Williams said. “But I never used color.”

That changed after one of his brother’s began using colored paint. Williams also began using color in his artwork.

“It wasn’t until I went to college that I found out what could be done with paint,” Williams said.

It was at Central State University in Edmond and Bacone College in Muskogee where Williams honed his craft as an artist. During those years he began exploring his Native heritage, learning how to display it artistically in both contemporary and historical society.

“I was encouraged to stay with a style I felt comfortable with,” he said. And while he did not pursue art as a career, instead getting a degree in education, he couldn’t shake the need to express himself through painting, particularly scenes and figures representing his Native American heritage.

Many of Williams’ works feature images of Native Americans, including one called “Old Man Whitebead,” which features a painting of the 103-year-old Hinton man.

“He was a real gentle old man,” Williams said. “He was very intelligent and spoke mostly in Caddo, but spoke English as well.” Whitebead told Williams about his younger years and what he went through in those days, including traveling up from Texas in a wagon.

Williams said the portrait, “Old Man Whitebead,” was bought by the Caddo tribe, adding that another painting, a vibrantly colored “Medicine Man,” was bought by the Cherokee Nation Art Market in Tulsa.

Though Williams worked for years as a teacher’s assistant at Edmond North High School and lived in the city for some time, he decided to pursue a job opportunity in Denver, Colorado, where he is program coordinator for the Fatherhood Project at Denver’s Indian Family Resource Center.

Williams said his involvement has been positive for the Native American community in the Denver area even though he misses Edmond. He has only positive things to say about the folks back in Edmond, stating that many of them, as well as his own family, were very supportive of his work.

“Just knowing they’re there for you, it helps keep you going,” Williams said, adding that he has received positive feedback from renowned Oklahoma artist, Kelly Haney of the Seminole nation. Haney created the bronze “Guardian” statue, which sits atop the Oklahoma State Capitol dome.

In the meantime, Williams’ work will be on display at the IAO Gallery in Oklahoma City, located at 811 N. Broadway and running November 9 through December 31. For more information on Thompson Williams and his Native American art, please go online to http://www.thompsonwilliams.blogspot.com.

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