Native American artist Gene “Iron Man” Smith says patrons who purchase art are getting much more than the piece that persuaded them to open their pocketbooks.
“When you buy a piece of art, you’re buying that person, you’re buying their mind, their passion, their blood, sweat and tears,” Smith said.
Smith, based in Norman, is a metal artist whose creations can weigh over 500 pounds. His “brushes” are a cutting torch, welding machine, rubber mallet, hammer and anvil.
When he references “blood, sweat and tears” going into his sculptures, he means it.
“It’s tedious and hard on the hands,” he said. “My art is cut, curved, convex and concave. I don’t like anything straight because that’s too easy. I’ll beat on a piece of metal and curve it and shape it until it’s to the form I want.”
Smith will be joining over 100 other Native American artists showing their works at the 2019 Artesian Arts Festival in downtown Sulphur from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday, May 25.
Smith’s full size horse sculpture medaled at the 2018 Artesian Arts Festival.
This year he is working feverishly to complete “Rain Dance,” a life-sized running warhorse complete with war party symbols and carrying an 8-foot spear and a war shield.
Realism in presentation is always his goal.
“I like for my creations to look realistic,” he said. “I like it where you can’t see a weld, where it’s smoothed out. It takes a little bit more time and effort, but that’s the point I try to get to. I like that challenge.”
Another challenge is squeezing enough hours out of each day to work on his projects. Smith currently works full-time at Haliburton in Duncan as a welder.
“My day starts at 2:30 in the morning and sometimes ends at 11:30 at night,” he said. “My art project time is after I get home from work. I’ll work for an hour or hour-and-a-half and by that time it’s 9:30-10:00, time to shower and get to bed.”
His first piece was a flower made from material used in chain link fences. His wife loved it and then one of her co-workers wanted one. Soon he was creating different kinds of Native American art which sold almost as fast as he could make them.
The Sulphur native says his heritage is half Dakota-Sioux and half Choctaw.
Along with Smith’s art, numerous other Native American cultures will be displayed through a diverse array of art media. More than 21 art disciplines will be represented at the 2019 Artesian Arts Festival. These include paintings, basketry, jewelry, sculpture, metalwork, beadwork and textiles.
Various art demonstrations and/or discussions will take place within the ARTesian Gallery & Studios. These will include such famed artists as Oklahoma and Chickasaw Hall of Fame inductee Mike Larsen.
Entertainment provided at no charge during the Artesian Arts Festival will include a children’s tent for make-and-take items and a senior arts and crafts area with several offerings from elder artists. Two stages will provide a venue for live performances.
Opening ceremonies will include a demonstration by the Chickasaw Nation Dance Troupe, with other tribal dance troupes performing throughout the day.
More than 15 food vendors will offer varied culinary delights. Shuttles will be available to transport patrons to and from the Chickasaw Cultural Center.
The Artesian Arts Festival takes place at the Artesian Plaza, located adjacent to the Artesian Hotel and Spa, 1001 W. First St., Sulphur.
For more information, contact Chickasaw Nation Arts & Humanities at 580-272-5520 or email ArtistInfo@Chickasaw.net.