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Ruthe Blalock Jones, born June 8, 1939, Native American; Delaware, Shawnee, Peoria (Artist)

Born in Claremore, Oklahoma, Ruthe Blalock Jones is an Indigenous artist and art historian. She was raised in the Native American Church (NAC) by her mother, Lucy Parks Blalock, and her father, Charles Jones, who was a Roadman for the NAC and a Stomp Dance leader at the Shawnee White Oak ceremonial grounds. Blalock Jones’s upbringing within the NAC, as well as her Delaware, Shawnee, and Peoria heritage, inform much of her artwork. For her subjects, she often draws upon relationships to the ceremonies, worldviews, objects, and people who affected her life. Jones’s diverse artistic practice includes painting, drawing, and printmaking.

Blalock Jones has had a profound impact on the canon of Indigenous art not only through her contributions as a female artist but also because she intentionally upends Native American racial stereotypes by representing her subjects as individuals and portraying their humanity in intimate detail.

“We are artists, teachers, and entrepreneurs; yet we are still singers, dancers, storytellers, shell shakers, stomp dance leaders, and medicine men. We are road men, bead workers, cooks, and ball players—and against all odds, we are still here. By all accounts, we should have disappeared, assimilated into the dominant culture and become extinct. But like our ancestors, the artists before us, we honor those who have gone on as we record for our descendants our ceremonies and our reaction to the forces of American politics and society. We are still here. We are still here!”1 —Ruthe Blalock Jones

In 1970, Blalock Jones received an associate’s degree from Bacone College (Muskogee, Oklahoma), where W. Richard “Dick” West (1912–2012) introduced her to Indigenous painting styles such as Kiowa Style or Flatstyle, ledger art, and various other genres. She earned a BFA from the University of Tulsa and eventually a master’s from Northeastern State University. She showed her artwork at the Philbrook Annual Indian Art competition, an event that filled a void by providing a market for Indigenous art in Oklahoma. Blalock Jones served as director emeritus and associate professor of art at Bacone College from 1979 on. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995. Throughout her career as an Indigenous art scholar, her research illuminated the vitality and importance of female Indigenous artists, particularly those from Oklahoma. As Blalock Jones said in an interview with Philbrook Museum of Art curator Christina Burke: “Indian women artists are here to stay.”2

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

1 Blalock Jones, Depriest, and Fowler, “Oklahoma: A View of the Center,” 41.

2 Ruthe Blalock Jones, interview by Christina Burke, Community Conversation, Philbrook Museum of Art, December 9, 2020. Burke, curator of Native American art at the Philbrook Museum of Art, discussed the Philbrook exhibition Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists with Blalock Jones. See “Ruthe Blalock Jones: Community Conversation (Legacy)” on the Philbrook Museum of Art channel on YouTube.