An 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.
The 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 museum’s expansive Silberman Collection of American Indian art.
"That 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 museum’s American Indian art curator.
The show includes six large-scale paintings from the museum’s 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).
In 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 Awat’ovi and Pottery Mound.
But 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.
"When 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 .