Artist Bryan Waytula fuses Indigenous culture with contemporary art

BY GRANT NEUGIN
Reporter
01/02/2019 09:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Bryan Waytula finishes a picture of a crane for a family member. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee artist Bryan Waytula poses with Cherokee Nation citizen Donetta Johnson at his booth at the annual Cherokee Art Market after she purchased one of his pointillism painted feathers. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Graphic designs created by Bryan Waytula to raise awareness of Native appropriation. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A pointillism painting by Bryan Waytula was shown at an art show at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles in November. It has come to be called the “Woman in the Red Blanket” and depicts a woman left out in the cold after forcibly being removed from her homeland. In the background is the handwriting of President Andrew Jackson who advocated and pushed through Congress the Indian Removal Act of 1830. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Bryan Waytula’s popular “Storyteller” portrait is drawn in his own style of pointillism, which is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. COURTESY
SAND SPRINGS – Cherokee artist Bryan Waytula expresses his culture through various art forms such as pop, portrait and pointillism.

“Growing up I was trying to find my niche, just something I was good or excelled at,” Waytula said. “Growing up I was always at my grandma’s house on the weekends. Both my sister, mom and grandma would weave baskets and teach me how to do the same.”

Waytula was raised in the Cherokee culture and at a young age was introduced to the art of traditional basket weaving with honeysuckle. He never could quite get the hang of it like his sister or mother, so instead his grandma gave him crayons and paper to be creative. The 2-D world soon became his favorite place to play.

When he started elementary school, Waytula got the opportunity to be in an art class. This was a class he excelled in. Later, he won an award for most outstanding artist. He carried his artistry on to Sapulpa High School where he earned an art scholarship to the University of Oklahoma.

After receiving his degree of visual communications at OU in 2002, Waytula decided to join a vinyl company and did freelancing on the side. He ending up disliking his job and decided to go back to school.

“I got tired of putting people’s bad ideas on shirts and banners and wanted to teach art while coaching basketball,” said Waytula. “I wanted to get my teaching degree from Northeastern State University because I was familiar with the institution. My mother is from Tahlequah and my dad, who was from Chicago, played basketball at NSU.”

In 2006, Waytula graduated from NSU with a degree in secondary education. He was certified to both teach and coach. Waytula wanted to give back to the community and decided that teaching art to students was the best way to go. He ended up retiring after teaching for 13 years with three different high schools, Chapman High School, Sapulpa High School and Metro Christian Academy in Tulsa.

Waytula is now able to take part in more art shows during what used to be a school year. He gets invited to shows across the country including shows in Santa Fe, the Indian Art Market at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles and the Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa. His ability to paint portraits with pointillism, which is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image, create awareness of Native appropriation in graphic designs and fuse Indigenous culture with contemporary art, makes his work both riveting and inspiring.

For more information, follow Bryan Waytula on Facebook or visit his website www.bryanwaytula.com.
About the Author
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grant-neugin@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000 ext. 7365
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