Artistic talent and cultural preservation run in the Shackleford family. Next to the Wallace-Shackleford tables, Chickasaw citizen Randy Shackleford, Tyra’s father, was busy showing flutes and canvas paintings. The attention-grabber for the 52-year-old Paoli High School math and computer science instructor were his paintings on turkey feathers he or his wife, Karla, -- they can’t recall which one -- harvested during turkey season.
Shackleford is the quintessential Chickasaw renaissance artist and craftsman. The Noble, Okla., resident knows taxidermy. He makes beaded hat bands, stickball mallets, Native flutes, paints on canvas and on feathers and performs other traditional craftsmanship that oftentimes isn’t for sale, but for use. Those specialties include bows and arrows, deer hides and box turtle shell shakers.
By far, visitors milling around his display table were emotionally awestruck by a painting of a soaring eagle with an American flag fluttering in the background. “Sold” signs popped up on Shackleford’s work with regularity. Unlike his son-in-law, Shackleford expressed a reluctance to sell a few pieces, particularly one he painted on a feather featuring the face of a Chickasaw warrior.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever attempted to paint a person. I’m usually inspired by the natural world -- birds, buffalo, stomp dancing, animals,” the soft-spoken Chickasaw said of his artistic efforts.
On Saturday, Shackleford found himself putting the cherished painting – and the eagle and American flag one – in a weather-proof bag for a buyer who could not leave SEASAM without them.
“I tell myself it is just a hobby. I’m not doing it for a living,” he said.
After 25 years in public classrooms, Shackleford will be able to take his art from “hobby” to “a living” should he choose to do so, but there are a couple of things that might prevent it -- “hunting and fishing,” he said smiling.