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Press Release

Release Date: August 03, 2020

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

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  • COVID-19 pintail effigy, 2020

ADA, Okla. – Lokosh’s (Joshua D. Hinson) menagerie of hand-carved decoys caught the eye of one of the most exclusive First American art shows in the United States.

An invitation to take part in August’s Southwest Association Indian Arts Market (SWAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was a first for the duck hunter and acclaimed creator of hand-carved tribal themed and traditional use decoys.

More than a dozen Chickasaw artists were juried into the prestigious art market before the show was canceled due to public health risks of COVID-19.

“Dustin Mater and I were going to share a booth together near the plaza. I was really looking forward to it, too, but they decided not to host this year’s event,” Lokosh said. Lokosh and Mater are Chickasaw artists whose works are valued in national museums, private citizen art collections and the touring exhibition “Visual Voices: Contemporary Chickasaw Art.”

Similar to the Artesian Online Art Market hosted this year by the Chickasaw Nation, SWAIA is offering a virtual art market beginning and operating through August for the more than 2,000 American Indian artists invited to Santa Fe before the national pandemic.

When opens shop, Lokosh believes he will display between four to eight tribally symbolic decoys along with a few paintings “just to have a variety,” he said.

He is contemplating carving an ivory-billed woodpecker, largely believed extinct though alleged sightings of the bird have been investigated by conservationists in Arkansas and Florida swamps.

Lokosh’s carving of a 30-inch wingspan would be typically the actual size of the creature.

Discovering His Calling

It was only a few years ago Lokosh learned the thrill of hunting ducks. In his late 30s at the time, he was more of a traditionalist Chickasaw, stalking deer and bison, along with other game. Little did he understand a chance invitation to hunt ducks with a fellow church parishioner would change his life.

“I was hooked!” he exclaimed.

Nothing gets a duck hunter’s heart racing more than the splendor of colors painting a magnificent sunrise accompanied by the “swoosh” of ducks, wings cupped, circling for a place to land – hopefully right over the decoys.

Decoys became a focus of Lokosh’s artistic lilt. Within the Chickasaw Nation, he works to preserve the ancestral oral language of the Chickasaw people. Lokosh directs the tribe’s Chickasaw Language Revitalization Program. He works with fluent Chickasaw speakers and the highly acclaimed Rosetta Stone language teaching platform to ensure the centuries old Chickasaw language survives into the future.

His “Lokosh” moniker blazed on the bottom of his masterful decoy carvings means “gourd” in the Chickasaw language. This traditional name was given to him by a native Chickasaw speaker in 2010.

“For the effigy carvings (tribal themed) I generally carve them for decorative display, though their construction is identical to a working decoy. I carve working decoys that are hollow and weighted, rigged for hunting. They can be placed in a spread of decoys for the owner to actually hunt over,” Lokosh said. “For the SWAIA virtual market, I believe a flattering decorative piece will appeal to those visiting the website,” he added.

The first symbolic tribal decoy crafted by Lokosh was purchased by New York City’s National Museum of the American Indian for its permanent collection. “I was stunned. I traveled to New York for a show where I demonstrated decoy carving and met a lot of people,” he said.

Lokosh has carved his unique wood duck logo decoy in two different versions, one red and one black, using symbols from an ancestral wood duck-snake hybrid bowl discovered in Moundville, Alabama, an ancient settlement of First Americans of Muskogean heritage.

“I was experimenting as an artist about how to incorporate Chickasaw symbolism, because decoys are not traditionally Chickasaw at all. Our ancestors would hunt with flaming torches at night, which forced the birds to raft up in a bunch. They were also probably netted. Bigger birds, geese and swan, were clubbed,” he said.

Bird effigies, especially on pottery and stone carvings, adorn ancient Chickasaw artifacts in the ancestral Homeland of Mississippi and Alabama, Lokosh pointed out.

For the NMAI exhibit, Lokosh crafted an oversized, hollow gadwall decoy. “I put tribal designs from Moundville on the wing patches along with designs from a shell gorget. I echoed that pattern on the pupils. I normally do not (carve) eyes on decoys, but my tribal decoys seem to need them for some reason. I think it is to balance the visual interest of the piece between the wing patch on the back and the head itself.

“Designs on a decoy should flow. You never want an admirer’s eyes to stop moving. You must balance the designs, so maybe there is a forked eye and a little gorget pattern, accompanied with a wing pattern echoing the same color palette. It just makes the decoy aesthetically more pleasing,” Lokosh said.

In A Dilemma

Lokosh is 41. He just defended his doctoral dissertation in native language revitalization at the University of Oklahoma in November 2019. He is a Ph.D.

When something is gained, something also is lost. While he toiled for his doctorate, his studio stood silent; tools ignored, decoy carvings went unfinished and his inventory plummeted.

Lokosh explained all his recent work was purchased by private collectors.

“Yeah,” he stammered preparing to admit, “I have no decoys to put on display. In fact, they’ve all been sold. So, here it is the middle of June and I’ve got to get busy preparing for SWAIA’s virtual show.”

While the Lokosh brand is well-known and sought out at decoy shows in North Carolina, where his decoy-making mentors Jerry Talton and Chase Luker reside, those treks are for actual hunters who demand Lokosh decoys be prepared to hit the water, be hunted over and able to take on a few shotgun pellets.

SWAIA will be different, Lokosh believes.

“I think the Southeastern artists are underrepresented in the grand scheme of the SWAIA market. It is heavily Southwestern and Plains tribes. I don’t know anyone who is doing this kind of work,” he said of crafting decoys and tribal bird effigies. These effigy carvings appeal to a collector of First American art, or a western art collector, and they would also be accepted by wildlife art collectors,” he said.

He faces another conundrum.

“If I started tomorrow, it would take me one full year to satisfy the orders I currently have,” he said.

Lokosh’s work can be found on his website, on Facebook @Lokosh American Indian Art, and on Instagram @lokosh.