exhibit of American Indian murals is not only offering visitors
a chance to see the works of famed Oklahoma artists, it is encouraging
them to take a road trip to view even more paintings.
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is tracing the mural
painting tradition from prehistoric times to present day in the
exhibition "American Indian Mural Painting in Oklahoma and
the Southwest. On display through May 3, it is drawn primarily
from the museums expansive Silberman Collection of American
was really kind of the inspiration for this exhibit, because we
are fortunate to have a number of these large-scale works,
said Steve Grafe, the museums American Indian art curator.
show includes six large-scale paintings from the museums collection,
including murals by renowned Oklahoma Indian artists Woody Crumbo
(Potawatomi), Acee Blue Eagle (Creek/Pawnee) and Archie Blackowl
(Cheyenne). Along with smaller sketches, it also features murals
by Romando Vigil (San Ildefonso Pueblo), Tonita Pena (San Ildefonso
Pueblo) and Jonny Hawk (Creek/Seminole).
addition, Hopi artist Michael Kabotie has loaned the museum two
of his "silver rooms for the show. With his small silver
overlays, he re-creates the intricate mural designs on the walls
of the kivas, or ceremonial chambers, inside the ancestral Hopi
villages of Awatovi and Pottery Mound.
the exhibit focuses primarily on works created in Oklahoma in the
1930s and 40s, when many cash-strapped artists found work
painting murals in public buildings as part of the New Deal.
the Indian fine arts movement started, the non-Indian people who
were teaching decided that Indian art was supposed to be flat, have
no horizon line, no perspective ... because they were using ledger
art and pottery decoration as their templates, Grafe said.
"The style of work they did was really well-suited to large
murals for public buildings.
of the paintings in the exhibit once hung in public buildings. Blue
Eagles triptych "Thunderbird & Buffalo Symbols
was painted in 1937 for the Muskogee Public Library and later salvaged
when the building fell into disrepair. Blackowls "The
Arrow Maker and an untitled Crumbo canvas were created for
the boys dormitory at the Fort Sill Indian School.
was astonished as I started doing research. ... I didnt have
any idea that the mural painting tradition, the Depression-era work,
had been as important and as expansive as it was, he said.
still can see American Indian murals in many Oklahoma institutions,
including the community post offices in Seminole, Okemah, Marietta,
Coalgate, Nowata and Anadarko.
to the museums mural exhibit can pick up cards detailing the
locations of the post offices and the artworks displayed in each
one. People are encouraged to travel to each post office and get
a postmark on the card in the space provided.
March, Mark White, associate professor of art history at Oklahoma
State University, will lead a museum bus tour to view New Deal-era
murals in central Oklahoma.
post offices in this state have murals by Indian artists, and there
are another 25 who have murals by non-Indian artists ... so its
a pretty rich tradition, Grafe said.