Master Artist Talmadge Davis dies at 43

Master Artist Talmadge Davis works on an original painting earlier this year at his home in Tahlequah.  (Photo by Bryan Pollard)
Master Artist Talmadge Davis works on an original painting earlier this year at his home in Tahlequah. (Photo by Bryan Pollard)
FORT GIBSON, Okla. (AP) - Friends, family and loved ones laid the late Talmadge Davis to rest Nov. 9 at the Fort Gibson National Cemetery, a day after they paid their respects to the Cherokee citizen and Master Artist at the Tahlequah High School Auditorium.

Davis, who died of a heart attack Nov. 3 in Tulsa at the age of 43, was born May 31, 1962, in McAlester, Okla. His art career began when he entered one of his pieces in an Oklahoma art contest despite never formally studying art.

Davis served in the U.S. Army from 1982-87 and his paintings often depicted scenes with military themes. After living for a time in Texas, he moved back to Oklahoma in the mid-90s, and in 1998 began his full-time painting career.

His work won the Best of Show prize in the Tulsa Indian Art Festival a year later. In 2002, his acrylic painting "The Headdress" won the first prize in the Trail of Tears Art Show. Two years later he was awarded the Cherokee Medal of Honor for helping bring Cherokee heritage to the mainstream.

Davis was the featured artist in the 2005 Indian Art Festival with his painting "Raven’s Moon." He won numerous other honors and awards, but the most important to him were the people’s choice awards.

He made headlines earlier this year when thieves stole a trailer containing about 60 prints and two original paintings from his front yard. Most of the stolen artwork was recovered within days.

His paintings evoke the heritage and history of the Cherokee people and have been featured at the Gilcrease Museum of Art in Tulsa. Davis’ work was part of a traveling exhibit that was featured at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

He was also given the title Master Artist by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee.

The Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill dedicated a portion of its Staff Art Show to Davis’ memory. The exhibit opened Nov. 14 and runs to Dec. 31.

Davis is survived by his mother, Patricia Davis of McAlester; three daughters, Melissa Davis of Ingram, Texas; Ashley Emery of Phoenix; and Staci Davis of Burning, Texas; a son, Kretien Davis of Burning, Texas; two brothers, Bobby Davis of Muskogee; and James Davis of San Antonio; two sisters, Vicki Dicks and Debbie Leiker, both of Derby, Kan.; and three grandchildren.

Services were under the direction of Gregg Funeral Home of Eufaula.

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