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Press Release

Release Date: July 13, 2022
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

SULPHUR, Okla. – It is simply titled “Cherie.”

While the charcoal, black and white depiction of male and female cardinals may possess simplicity in name, the complexity of the work is seemingly infinite.

Sadie Milligan named the piece for her mother whose untimely death in 2015 impacted the Milligan family profoundly. Cherie was merely 54 when cancer cut her life short.

“Losing my mom was difficult. She was my champion and biggest cheerleader,” Milligan said, tucked beneath a shaded tent at the recent Artesian Arts Festival.

Milligan’s mother took great solace in the prose, “Cardinals appear when angels are near.”

Inspired by blogger/poet Virginia McGovern, the saying adorns cards of sympathy for loss of a loved one. The full context of the message has been limited for commercial endeavors.

The full text is “Cardinals appear when angels are near. So go now, sit outside, and drink your tea. It is there.”

“Mom loved the saying, and it moved me as well,” Milligan said.

It is believed the presence of cardinals indicate ancestors are close and watching over you, visiting you and reminding you to keep them in your memories, prayers and daily thoughts.

The detail in “Cherie” almost defies belief. It appears to be a black and white photo of two cardinals.

“It is all in charcoal pencil,” Milligan said. “I use an X-ACTO razor to keep the pencils very thin and sharp. It is a tedious process. I layer it so the little details are visible. All of my drawings are charcoal, and my paintings are acrylic on canvas,” she added.

She completed “Cherie” in honor of her mother. The male cardinal could easily be her father, Mark Milligan, executive officer of Chickasaw Nation Arts and Humanities, who is also a noted and award-winning artist in his own right.

At the 2022 festival, Milligan was a second-place finisher for a charcoal drawing of her dog. Milligan’s largest offering at the festival was a buffalo, acrylic on canvas, which mixed realism with impressionism.

“When I do charcoal, they are always in black and white. So, when I paint, I want bright, beautiful colors,” she said.

In the painting, Milligan said she used “all my favorite colors.” There are orange, red, blue, purple, light and dark shades that appeal to the eye. “It started out as a painting we were going to hang over the fireplace mantel,” Milligan said. Her best-selling artwork is much smaller, and she provides ample opportunities for art lovers to pick up beautiful 5-by-5-inch paintings for around $40 each.

The show officially kicked off at 9 a.m. June 25. By 9:40 a.m., Milligan had sold four of the smaller paintings.

The art is both eclectic and straight-forward. A multi-colored scissortail flycatcher offers the true figure of Oklahoma’s state bird with colors not typically observed in real life. Paintings of a buffalo and a wolf are depicted the same way in Milligan’s smaller paintings.

“I think that is one of the reasons people like them so much,” she said. “It is obvious what the painting is, but the beautiful colors highlight it.” Milligan said she received lots of compliments on them. “People are attracted to the unusual colors on paintings of a familiar animal. I could easily paint one hundred billion buffaloes. It is my favorite animal,” she said laughing.

Milligan’s fiancé, Logan Volino, suggested smaller paintings and they have been a big hit with patrons. Milligan also discussed the vitality of providing a price point on art that is much more affordable and realistic to purchase for many people. Milligan stated, “I feel like art should be accessible to all. I will always incorporate my “minis” into all that I do. I could see how happy people were for the ability to purchase something they felt a connection with.” The couple are planning an October wedding in Ada.

“You can group them into a nice pattern for display in the home. Also, they are easy to carry around as buyers explore other artists and visit their booths,” Milligan said.

She was honored to be among the Chickasaw artists sharing their talent in person. Milligan reflected on the importance to her about being a strong Chickasaw woman.

“I think being part of our tribe is a blessing. The Chickasaw Nation is very empathic; it builds up a lot of people. To see my tribe morally strong and expanding services to citizens – and other First Americans as well – is important to me.”

“I have red hair. I always wanted black hair like my dad,” the 27-year-old artist said with a laugh. “I took after my mom. I am Chickasaw through my father. It is the only tribe I am part of, and I am very proud of my heritage.”

Sadie, whose formal name is Mercedes, works for the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center working with resident physicians from a behavioral health standpoint.