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Red Earth Festival Honored One Ruthe Blalock Jones

Award-winning artist Ruthe Blalock Jones (Chu-Lun-Dit) (Delaware, Shawnee, Peoria), from Muskogee, OK was named the 2011 Red Earth Honored One.

The nationally known artist and sought-out authority on Native American art was recognized during ceremonies Saturday, June 4 at the 2011 Red Earth Festival in downtown Oklahoma City.

The tribute at this year’s Red Earth festivities was among many previous honors in an illustrious career for this artist who began studying art at age 10.

Jones’ artworks on traditional American Indian ceremonial and social events have been published by The Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, Time-Life books, and the United States Department of Justice Annual Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, to name a few.

She concentrates on depicting Indian women in dance attire, often placing them in ceremonial or spiritual contexts, such as powwows or stomp dances. “I paint what I know,” she says.

Seen in many mediums -- oil, ink, crayon, watercolor -- her work is technically described in the art world as generally adhering to a traditional two-dimensional “flat” style, with images placed in negative space or blank background. Some subjects are recorded in paintings, some in drawings, others in limited edition prints in linoleum, woodcut and serigraphs.

The Red Earth Honored One is selected each year by the Red Earth Board of Directors and presented to “a master visual artist whose support and influence of Native American art has been significant.” The board also takes into consideration the artist’s continuing involvement as well as “embracing and embodying the collective wisdom of their cultural experience.”

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That wisdom has been called upon by a number of institutions. Jones, age 71, has held advisory positions with the Chicago Art Institute, the Oklahoma Historical Society, and most recently, by the British Museum in London.

She is Director Emeritus and Associate Professor of Art, Bacone College, Muskogee, OK. Bacone is where she earned an associates degree in 1970, which was followed two years later by a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Tulsa. In 1989 she earned her master’s degree from Northeastern State University.

She has been awarded the Oklahoma Governor Arts Award and honored as a lifetime achievement artist by the Heard Museum. Jones has participated in Red Earth since its founding in 1987. She has won the Grand Award for Best of Show at the Red Earth Festival and has served as a judge in both the dance competition and visual arts.

Her artwork can be found in private collections throughout the United States, as well as the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ, the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee and the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

Jones joins an impressive list of previous Honored One recipients including Jereldine Redcorn, Archie Blackowl, Mildred Cleghorn, Enoch Kelly Haney, Benjamin Harjo, Jr. and Tillier Wesley.

“Red Earth was a wonderful experience,” Jones said when she arrived back home. “My granddaughters were with me in the parade and my daughter Nancy danced with me, along with a former student, Kevin Connywerdy, in the Grand Entry on Sunday. I saw many friends, some I had not seen in years, and heard news of others. And as always, it was great to see all of my artist friends and collectors as well as new ones. All in all, it was special.”

In her travels in the past, Jones said her family has visited ancestral sites. Relating to her Shawnee heritage, the Blalocks are descendants of Chief Blackhoof. “We attended a dedication of Chief Blackhoof Park in the Kansas City area a couple of years ago. We wore Blackhoof Descendants blankets that my daughter had made, and some cousins sang. There were 90 Blalocks in attendance.”