Richard Ray Whitman is a Yuchi-Muscogee/Creek visual artist, poet, actor, and activist born in Claremore, OK. He attended the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM; California Institute of the Arts, Santa Clarita; and Oklahoma School of Photography, Oklahoma City.
Whitman is known for his black-and-white photographs portraying contemporary Native realities, especially his Street Chiefs Series, which features images of homeless Native men, primarily in downtown Oklahoma City. His photographic portraits are compassionate and empathetic to the lives of homeless Native individuals and place them in the larger context of Indian Removal, the forced displacement of Native tribes from their ancestral homelands to a designated, far-removed Indian Territory.
Whitman has exhibited his work at museums and galleries worldwide, including exhibitions at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC, and the Venice Biennale, Italy. His artwork has been published in magazines including Native Peoples and American Indian Art and featured in books including Aperture’s Strong Hearts: Native American Visions and Voices and the Oxford University Press college textbook Native North American Art.
He has worked as an artist-in-residence with the Oklahoma Arts Council, teaching art in public and alternative schools. He taught art through the National Indian Youth Council and the youth-at-risk program at the Native American Center (now First Americans Museums) in Oklahoma City. He has also worked with youthful offenders, teaching art as rehabilitative therapy as a visiting artist in several state corrections institutions.
Whitman is an accomplished actor and filmmaker, appearing in films including Red Reflections, War Party, Lakota Woman, and The Only Good Indian, among others.
—From Brandywine Workshop and Archives records