Thunder commissions painting by Enid artist for Chesapeake Energy Arena

Enid artist Catherine Freshley appears with her painting, "Oklahoma Sunset," which was commissioned by the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the Founders' Lounge hallway at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. (Photo provided)

ENID, Okla. — The Oklahoma City Thunder recently commissioned a local artist to create a painting for Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Catherine Freshley, Enid resident and owner of Catherine Freshley Art, was commissioned by the Thunder to paint a work depicting a sunset, which now hangs in a hallway in the arena.

Freshley, originally from Portland, Ore., said the commission from the Thunder is her largest work to date, in a budding art business that started as a hobby.

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"Art has always been my main hobby and my most consistent interest as I was growing up," Freshley said.

She took art classes in high school and college, but when it came time to declare a major at Tulane University, she studied economics and English.

Freshley went on to work in the advertising industry, but she said her love of art never waned, and she started selling pieces after graduating from Tulane in 2009.

"I was selling a little bit of my art on the side and I started selling more and more, and I decided this wasn't something I could abandon," Freshley said. "Art became a calling, if you will."

She said painting quickly became a second job, which she would undertake at night after working a full day at her advertising job.

"Neither my husband nor I enjoyed that situation, where I was coming home and then working on what I was really itching to do, which was art," Freshley said.

About two years ago she decided to undertake art as her full-time vocation, and launched her art business.

She came to Enid, following her husband's job, and opened a studio at Creative HQ, 222 E. Maple, where she paints landscape scenes.

Her work is sold primarily online, through local commissions and at the annual Festival of the Arts in Oklahoma City.

It was through Festival of the Arts that the Thunder corporate hospitality team found Freshley, along with several other Oklahoma artists, as they sought art to celebrate the team's 10th anniversary in Oklahoma City.

Freshley said she was surprised when she received an email from the Thunder office asking her to submit a proposal for the project.

"It felt like a big deal that the Thunder actively sought me out and commissioned me to do this," Freshley said. "I was thrilled.

"This is my biggest corporate commission ever," she said, "and the most high-profile thing I've ever done, so I was just blown-over when I got the email from them asking me to do this."

Freshley said the team wanted art work to decorate the Founders' Lounge hallway, "a really nice hallway with a lot of marble and woodwork that previously didn't have much in the way of art."

"They wanted to invest in some art to decorate the hallway and to thank the founders on the 10th anniversary of the team being in the city, to thank the community and to support the local artist community," Freshley said.

The final concept for the painting drew on Freshley's focus on landscape painting, and on the team's colors and connection to Oklahoma.

"We discussed a few different options," she said. "They had asked about doing several different compositions, but the wall they wanted to present the work on is rather large, so I presented the option of doing a triptych design."

The triptych, a three-piece painting, would include three canvases each measuring 3 feet by 4 feet, together depicting a sunset.

"It gave us some flexibility in filling a space as large as we needed to fill, without having one giant canvas," Freshley said.

For inspiration, she reviewed with the Thunder corporate hospitality team photos of sunsets she'd taken around Enid and Northwest Oklahoma.

"They described what they wanted, which was really a sunset indicative of what Oklahoma sunsets look like, and they wanted a lot of orange and blue because of the team colors."

They settled on a sunset she caught in an unplanned photo shoot along Cleveland, south of Willow, while driving home in November 2016.

"The sky hadn't started to change colors yet, but I knew from the cloud formations it was going to be something spectacular," Freshley said. "I just pulled over and waited and took probably 100 photos as the sky began to change."

She said the photos from that day were selected because of the colors and "the expanse of the sky and a lot of the dramatic cloud formations."

The work, titled "Oklahoma Sunset," was completed over the course of several weeks last fall, and now has been installed in Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Freshley said she's grateful to the team for the opportunity to take part in the project, and for the Thunder's commitment to working with local artists.

“This project is a significant investment in local art,” Freshley said. “It is a clear indication of the team’s commitment to the city and I felt so honored that they wanted to include me.”

Freshley's work can be seen and purchased on her website, catherinefreshleyart.com, and also will be on display at Festival of the Arts from April 24-29 at Bicentennial Park in Oklahoma City.

For more information, Freshley also can be reached by email at catherine@catherinefreshleyart.com.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com. He can be reached at jneal@enidnews.com.

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