Wild west meets Gulf Coast: Local artist blends cultures

Jacob Fuller
Terri Rector is following in her father's footsteps as a painter. Her work blends western, Native American and Gulf Coast influences into a style all her own.

Walking through Terri Rector's hallway to her home studio in Miramar Beach, it's obvious where her heritage lies and who most inspired her to become an artist.

Terri's walls are decorated with the works of her father, Joe Rector, a man of many titles — Cherokee, painter, Oklahoman and body builder, to name a few. When Terri was young, Joe was a school teacher, until he held his first art show and sold all of his paintings. That is when he became a full-time artist.

Now Terri, who owns a cleaning service, is trying to follow her father into the world of a full-time art career.

"It's been something I've wanted to do forever," Terri told The Log.

Terri has taken on a similar, yet distinctly different, style to her father's. This fact is most evident in a painting the father and daughter did together. The painting depicts a Native American father and daughter. Terri painted the daughter on the right half of the painting, and then let Joe paint the father on the left half of the canvas. While the halves complement each other to form a cohesive whole, they are clearly painted by two different artists.

Along with painting, Terri also learned the rare skill of hand-cutting mats for framing paintings from her father.

"I was one of the only women in Oklahoma who could cut those hand-cut mats," Terri said. "You see them on a lot of paintings now, but they are machine cut."

Since moving to Miramar Beach about eight years ago, Terri has also relocated the characters of her paintings. She uses some of the same elements of her western and Native American style and incorporates them into a coastal setting. After all, western culture is not what comes to mind when one thinks of the Emerald Coast.

"I thought it would be neat to take the concept of the flowing hair and put it on a mermaid," Terri said. "So I converted it from a western-style cowgirl to a western mermaid. Being in Florida, you've got to adapt to your surroundings. Western art isn't super popular here."

One piece exemplifies the combination of coastal life and Native American ancestry that influence Terri's art, and has become one of her most popular paintings. It depicts a mermaid in the water, with features that are distinctly Native American. The painting was purchased before Terri even finished it. And there wasn't only one interested buyer.

"I was delivering it to the gentleman who purchased it, and (a woman) saw it," Terri said. "She said, 'If he does not take it, I want it. If he does, I want one, but bigger."

So Terri painted the woman a 4-foot-by-5-foot version of the mermaid.

Terri's art is currently on display at Southern Hands Market at 501 E. Harbor Blvd., Unit E in Destin. She will also be on hand with paintings and prints for sale at the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival in Niceville Oct. 18-20.