Once arrested for his art, Hoka Skenandore bridges the gap between gutter and gallery

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NORMAN, OKLAHOMA -- His muses aren't so much dark as secret.

Artist Hoka Skenandore says, "I think I was just into the mischief aspect of graffiti."

As a kid, he prowled the streets of Albuquerque, New Mexico with a spray can tagging freeway underpasses and the concrete walls of drainage canals.

"I'd like to say I put in a fair amount of work," he chuckles.

He did get caught late one night lingering too long next to a busy highway.

"We saw the lights and went, 'ohh'."

His career as a tagger ended, but his career as an artist was just beginning, and that graffiti flair remained.

Hoka says, "It's part of the DNA of my work. No matter which direction I take, it's such a huge influence."

Skenandore's Native American background is typically mixed; a little Oneida, Lakota Sioux on his mother's side, Chicano too.

All those influences came out through dripping spray or squirting out through bright tubes of oil base paint.

This painting started as a tribute to Cubism.

Hoka can't help but add his own taggers' flair to it.

"I'm thinking, what would I do to it," he states while working. "Only with my kind of sloppy, expressionistic, and my graffiti influence."

Skenandore's work found its way past canvas to stuff like his tool box, simple pottery, even old vinyl records, and, finally, to legitimate galleries.

In this showcase of Native American painters in Oklahoma City, the Exhibit C Gallery chose from a newly recognized wave of young artists from Indian Country who's influences include graffiti, comic book heroes, and cartoon villains.

Hoka calls them the gaps between gutters and galleries.

"I guess there's just this big movement, of sorts, where people are really using that as an influence and embracing it."

Click here for more information about Exhibit C and their show called 'Transitions.'

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