NORMAN — Known for its artful blend of form and function, wagon wheel place setting, “prairie green glaze,” and funky yet modern ceramic animals, Frankoma Pottery has long exerted a strong influence on Oklahomans.
Helping to put this rich but easily overlooked and sometimes subconscious legacy into perspective is a show called “Oklahoma Clay: Frankoma Pottery.” Curated by retired University of Oklahoma art professor Jane Ford Aebersold, the small, gemlike exhibit is on view in a first floor gallery near the entrance of OU's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.
The company was founded by John Frank (1905-1973), who, shortly after his graduation from the Chicago Art Institute in 1927, was asked by Oscar Jacobson to develop a ceramics program at OU.
Supplying us with a fitting emblem of Frank's time at OU, where he taught for eight years, is a tall, handsome, classically slim and elegant 1928 “Jacobson Vase,” with a pale, dawn-like yellow glaze.
Done the same year is a tall vase whose iron red and green glazes seem to overlap — almost like something one might find in one of Claude Monet's impressionist “lily pad” paintings.
Other engaging Frank works from the 1930s and '40s include a maple-glazed humidor with a wave motif, a pair of floral green vases with silver overlay, and such figurative objects as sea horse bookends.
Especially notable, in the figurative category, are the designs for Frankoma, done during the 1930s, by longtime OU sculpture professor Joe Taylor. These miniature masterpieces suggest the rounded, flowing motions of such animals as multicolored horses; black, green and reddish-brown pumas; and a seated, quietly thoughtful “Coyote Pup.”
Almost equally appealing, if a little bit more kitsch, are Ray Murray's designs for the company, also done during the 1930s. Murray's works depict a small, squat, carefully coifed black buffalo, staring at the ground, as if pondering his fate, and a comely female “Indian Bowl Maker,” perhaps examining her reflection in its depths.