Kiowa artist from Oklahoma City wins top honors at Red Earth Festival

R.W. Geionety, of Oklahoma City, wins top honors at 26th annual Red Earth Festival. Art showcase, competitive American Indian dancing continues through Sunday at Cox Convention Center.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: June 10, 2012

A divorce pushed him out of the art show circuit for several years, but now R.W. Geionety is back with a storm.

The 61-year-old Kiowa artist won the coveted “Grand Award” at this year's Red Earth Festival for his watercolor painting, “The Southern Thunder.”

The piece — developed over three months' time about four years ago at his home studio in Oklahoma City — features three Indian war dancers, in full paint and regalia, atop a horizontal banner of nondescript tribal stamps.

Geionety said he has been fascinated with the colors and movements of tribal dancers since he began drawing at the age of five years old. Art was a habit he picked up from his father, noted artist George Geionety.

“I used to sit on the floor and watch him paint with a kerosene lamp. That used to really fascinate me,” he said.

Geionety said his early days were spent drawing cartoons. An art teacher once scolded him for an unflattering caricature, but instead of disciplining him the impressed principal lined him up with a job drawing for the school newspaper.

His first real commission, however, was while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Geionety said he was asked to design a birthday cake with the Marine logo, and later was part of a team that redesigned the 3rd Marine Division logo while serving in Okinawa, Japan.

In 1993, Geionety began working as a professional artist. Now he spends all his free time researching at powwows and other native events.

“I go to other shows and I only see the dancers from chest up,” he said. “They don't show the full regalia from head to shoe. And I like to do them in action because there is a lot of movement — the only thing you really see is a blur because they're spinning around.”

Geionety said he develops his subjects the old-fashioned way: With a simple drawing built in layers of color and movement, decorated with water-based inks and finished with bright paints. His images are a vivid snapshot of action.

“I'm a perfectionist,” he said. “I draw the figure out first with a pencil, I get them into the position I like them to be and then I start adding regalia.”