About the artists


James Blackburn

James Blackburn’s primary artwork is illustration and sculpture.  His pencil illustrations encompass a variety of design areas that include: book illustrations, storyboards for film and stage productions, set and prop design, conceptual drawings, architectural and exhibition art renderings, and costume design.  

James’ talent for art was encouraged at a young age from teachers and family, particularly from his grandfather who lived in Oklahoma where he spent his summers and would eventually call home. Although he was born in Seoul, Korea and raised on the East Coast, he gained a great sense of culture and identity from his adoptive parents, particularly his father who was of Chickasaw descent, which is represented in much of his artwork. 

While growing up on the East Coast, James attended the Joe Kuburt School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. While at Joe Kuburt’s, he was recruited by Marvel and D.C. Comics to do some freelance work as a penciler.

James served as illustrator for the Chickasaw Nation from 2003 to 2011, where he worked on projects that consisted of stage design, marketing, costuming, and production storyboarding for film and video.

In 2011, James was commissioned by the Chickasaw Nation to illustrate “The Historic Map of the Unconquered and Unconquerable Chickasaw People.” This 8 x 12 foot granite and marble historic map has become a permanent art piece at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma. The map was awarded the People’s Choice Award at the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego, California. 

In 2014 James expanded his art into sculpture and was commissioned by the Chickasaw Nation to create a monumental seven foot sculpture depicting two Southeastern hunters during the Mississippian Culture Period titled Owwatta (They're Hunting). The sculptures were installed at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in the Summer of 2016. 


Joanna Underwood Blackburn

Joanna Underwood Blackburn's primary artwork is sculpture and pottery. As a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation she is inspired by tribal life ways and ancient designs of the Southeast. Her artwork also incorporates themes from nature including animals, plants and floral.

Joanna studied graphic design at the University of Oklahoma where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. While there she was introduced to various art disciplines including ceramic sculpture. This sparked an interest to research her tribe’s pottery. With the guidance and encouragement from tribal members, Joanna was able to recreate and help revitalize the art of pottery making for the Chickasaws. Since those early beginnings in 1994, she has since turned her creations into bronze sculptures. 

In 2011 Joanna was commissioned to create multiple large-scale bronzes of her pottery and other southeastern inspired works for the Chickasaw Nation. Her sculptures are located at the Oka’ Chokmasi pocket park and the Chickasaw Cultural Center, both located in Sulphur, Oklahoma. 

Her art works are included in the following collections:
• Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS
• Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
• Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC
• US National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD
• Chickasaw Nation and Chickasaw Cultural Center
• Office of the Ambassador of the Chickasaw Nation to the United States, Washington DC