Oklahoma City Mike Larsen's eyes poured over two huge
acrylic paintings he created 21 years ago.
"This painting of an Arapaho holy man and his people brings
back many emotions," Mr. Larsen said. "It was painted right after
the Oklahoma City bombing. Two of our children are included and
the others are close friends. Many of them now gone."
After 10 years in Kansas City, the Chickasaw artist's two-panel
painting "Cloud People" is back in Oklahoma. It was relocated to
Kansas City in 2006 when the Oklahoma City Federal Reserve branch
moved into a new office without the capacity to properly display
"I'm glad it's back home where it belongs," Mr. Larsen said.
A world renowned painter and sculpture who has been honored
with induction into both the Chickasaw and Oklahoma halls of fame.
The Oklahoma City Federal Reserve branch commissioned the painting
after the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed in 1995.
The two 7'x6' paintings were first envisioned as part of a project
in 1994 by Mr. Larsen and his wife, Martha.
The Larsens were researching and capturing images of holy men
often called shamans from each of Oklahoma's 39 federally-recognized
"A few of the tribes no longer had living holy men, so 36 paintings
were completed," Mr. Larsen said.
"Cloud People" is the largest painting in the series.
Mr. Larsen was approached by the Oklahoma City Federal Reserve
branch in summer 1995. "They made it clear that, in some way, they
wanted to pay tribute and honor people who had lost their lives
on April 19 of that year," the artist told a gathering of Oklahoma
City and Kansas City Federal Reserve staff and executives June 2.
Additionally, officials wanted to honor all of the families that
were so affected.
"We had not yet painted a work on the Arapaho," Mr. Larsen said.
"When I presented the idea of an Arapaho holy man wrapping his cloak
around an extended family in an act of comfort and protection, it
proved to be exactly what the Federal Reserve wanted. This painting
expresses what we all were looking for a little piece of
The Larsens are a team.
While Mr. Larsen's work paintings and sculptures
are located throughout the world, Mrs. Larsen plays an important
role in the success of each project the couple launches.
The Larsens have two volumes of work honoring Chickasaw elders.
"We visited them," Mr. Larsen said. "We got to know them. I
took my sketch pad and Martha shot an average of 300 photographs
per elder. We used two photographs to create each portrait."
The culmination of the effort was two books "They Know Who They
Are" and "Proud to Be Chickasaw" featuring portraits of almost 50
Chickasaw elders painted by Mr. Larsen. Each is accompanied by a
story written by Mrs. Larsen and award-winning Chickasaw artist
The portraits are displayed at Chickasaw Nation Headquarters
in Ada and at the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center in Sulphur. The
books are available at Amazon and at the Chickasaw Press.
Larsen was commissioned by the State of Oklahoma to paint a
26-foot-long mural five internationally prominent Native American
ballet dancers, all born in Oklahoma. The depiction was for the
He has painted eight murals for the Oklahoma Art Institute and
six murals for the University of Oklahoma Donald W. Reynolds Performing
Art Center and School of Dance.
The next project for the Larsens is in the planning stage. Its
focus is Oklahoma history.
"There have been a lot of books and things like that on the
history of Oklahoma, but we haven't done them," Mr. Larsen said.
"We think it will be extremely interesting to explore all the differing
perspectives of the topic artistically."