Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

July 24, 2012

Elizondo pursuing a love of art

TAHLEQUAH — While growing up in Tahlequah, Michael Elizondo Jr.’s interests were sports and nature. Today, he works as full-time artist-in-residence of the Jacobson House Native Arts Center in Norman.

Elizondo moved to Tahlequah when his father enrolled as a student at Northeastern State University. He started second grade at Woodall School, and graduated in 2003 from Sequoyah High School.

Art has always been part of his life.

“I do not remember starting,” he said. “It has always been something I have enjoyed doing. When I was a child, I remember sneaking into my grandpas tool shed and playing with his art supplies. When my dad was going to school at NSU, he was an art student, and I used to play with all of his paints, and even rub my hands through his fresh oil paintings. These were not things they were happy about at the time, but that’s how I got my start.”

He also enjoyed being in the country and going to the area rivers and lakes.

“What made Tahlequah a great place for me to grow up was if I ever got bored, I was always able to keep myself occupied, whether it was running, swimming, cruising,” Elizondo said. “Or if I wanted the quiet time I would do my art.”

When he was in Tahlequah, most of his time was spent playing sports.

“As a kid, me and my brothers, Tony and Jeff, were always playing soccer, basketball, and running. When I was in high school, I gave basketball one more shot but I decided to dedicate the rest of my time to cross country and track,” he said. “This led me to Oklahoma Baptist University’s cross country and track team.”

During his time at OBU, in Shawnee, he decided to pursue art as a career. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts At Oklahoma Baptist University, and a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma in May 2011.

For the past 14 months, he’s been working as a full-time artist, and has held his post at the Jacobson House since last August.

“During my residency, I have been given a studio space to help further my artistic practices and have began to exhibit outside the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “I have recently been offered an adjunct position to instruct a few art courses at Bacone College this fall.”

Since he’s established in Oklahoma City, he plans to commute twice a week to Bacone.

His visits to Tahlequah are “sporadic and short-lived.”

“I miss being around all of the friends I grew up with and the high school friends who were from around the state and country,” he said.

While he doesn’t like to choose favorite teachers, he credits Sam Horsechief for helping him prepare for college and life beyond high school.

Family, history, and other artists inspire him.

“I have dabbled in a number of mediums, but what has consistently attracted me the longest has been painting and drawing,” he sad. “My styles vary, because I get bored if I do one thing for too long. So, I try to keep myself open to anything, because I enjoy the growth in exploration and experimentation.”

Although his styles and subject matter are constantly evolving, he finds most of his work falls into two directions: identity and the influence of socio-political history.

“If I am going to do an exhibit or a show that can be interpreted in a number of ways, I will throw in a portrait and a semi-abstracted piece. Whatever I do, I try to keep the pieces linked together in some kind of way when they are in one exhibition,” he said. “If I am invited to take part in a portrait exhibition, I will send some of my portraits. If I am invited to an exhibition that involves Native American or just socio-political history in general, I will respond whatever way I feel is necessary. I try to keep myself open to all of those options.”

He has always felt that art is his calling.

“I have taken consideration in other professions, but I have always known this would be my path,” he said.

Competitions he has won include a juried art exhibition at the Jacobson House twice; the Fred Jones Museum of Art; T.G. Mays Purchase award in the 97th Annual OU Students Exhibition; the Outstanding Young Artist at the Red Cloud Indian School Heritage Center in Pine Ridge, S.D.; and honorable mention at the Tulsa Momentum: Art Doesn’t Stand Still exhibition.

In March, he was in an exhibition in Santa Ynez, Calif., called “Portraits of a People,” and he’s preparing a piece for an exhibition at the, “All My Relations” Gallery in St. Paul, Minn., called “De Unkiyepi – We Are Here.”

His professional goals are to keep pushing his art work toward a national level.

Michael plans to marry Dayrah Yellowfish, mother of his daughter, next May. His mother is Lou Ann Chouteau, and he has a sister, Michelle Chouteau. His dad, Michael Elizondo Sr., and niece, Jacy Elizondo, still live in Tahlequah.

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