Oklahoma Aiukli

Hello everyone! I’ve been taking a break from #dailyerincooperart because I’ve hard at work on an awesome project with Western Avenue. I was one of 7 artists selected to create a mural for the Taste of Western. I wasn’t sure I could take on a project of this magnitude at first, but after some thought I realized that passing up a chance like this would be something I’d always regret.

I talked to my Dad about my fears and he related a story about an old friend he once knew who continued to be one of the best commercial fishermen, even on into his 70’s. My father once asked him why he kept on fishing, even though it was so hard, and his friend just said, “I do it for the glory.” I love when my father answers my questions with an anecdote and then leaves me to figure it out for myself. It’s true though that all the hardest things I’ve done in my life are the things I’m most proud of.

So, even though I’m terrified to attempt a project that is full of unknowns, I know in the end it will be good (because I don’t give up until I get things right.), and I’ll be so proud of being a part of this opportunity. I am also much more confident now that I’ve found two other amazing artists to collaborate on this project. Amanda Bradway and Lauren Miller are incredible women that I truly admire and I feel so happy to be working with them. We’ve already had a great time brainstorming and working to create our mockup for our presentation.

I wanted to share the progress here with you, and I thought it would be best to share the presentation that we gave to the property owners yesterday. I wanted to wait until our artwork was approved before I shared our ideas, but here it is for your enjoyment. 

Aiukli, Choctaw, noun, Translation: Beauty

As artists living and working in the Oklahoma City community, we first want to thank Hoffman’s Furniture for embracing the Western Avenue mural project. We feel honored to have been chosen to represent our community and to have the opportunity to create something beautiful, meaningful, and long-lasting. When we were offered the this chance and given carte blanch to create a mural, our first thought was just to create something positive and uplifting that would be symbolic of all that is beautiful in Oklahoma.

Finding a vision with all those qualities was not an easy task, but the answer came in the form of a 13-year old Choctaw girl named Bella Aiukli. As an active member of her tribe, she embodies many of the qualities that we wanted to convey in our piece. She’s connected to her roots in Oklahoma, but also a positive role-model to her peers and esteemed by everyone who knows her. We decided that she would represent Oklahoma as an entity. Her Choctaw heritage firmly rooted in the land, and her hopeful future as a native of this state.

In addition to Bella as the central element, we decided to pull subjects from nature. In our mural you’ll find the Buffalo, butterfly wings, catfish, Scissor-tail feathers, bees, roses, and other natural elements. These elements are woven into Bella’s hair and head piece. We were careful to not appropriate any Native symbols that could be perceived as disrespectful, and created a modern & stylized look that is a departure from typical art with Oklahoma themed subject matter.

Our piece is entitled, “Oklahoma Aiukli”

We chose a bright palette of sky blue, orange & gold to represent the spectacular Oklahoma skies, with smaller elements colored in shades of blue, orange, coral red, teal green, and indigo.

Our goal was to create a way for our mural to interact with the audience and allow them to connect with the art in their own ways. Our “Oklahoma Aiukli” has her hands outstretched as though she is carrying something precious. The audience will be able to “stand” in her outstretched hands and insert themselves into the modern Oklahoma mural bathed in white light.

If you’re interested in following along on our journey as we create this GIANT (100′ x 20′) piece of street art, be sure to check back on the blog for weekly updates, and follow us on Twitter @3704project and Instagram @3704project, and our team will be tagging all their posts with #3704project — If you’d like to contact me to volunteer on our painting team, or to interview us about our project, please get in touch with us.

Thanks so much for reading,

~erin

UPDATE

Our mural was completed in October of 2014 and subsequently awarded "People's Choice" for the Taste of Western mural competition. In October of 2015, the project was inducted in the Google Cultural Institute, a world-wide platform for Google to share culturally significant projects. Our mural was among the first "street art" projects inducted in the midwest and we're very proud to be in such inspiring company.

Check out the final mural and the Google Cultural Institute here.

Erin Cooper