Many Oklahoma lawmakers want state Capitol mural taken down

Oklahoma House and Senate members say a new mural, dedicated in May, doesn't fit in at the state Capitol. It is the first work by a Hispanic artist to be displayed at the Capitol, but staffers say the artist's ethnicity has nothing to do with the criticism.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: August 20, 2010 at 11:34 am •  Published: August 20, 2010

Many lawmakers don't like the newest mural at the state Capitol and want it taken down, the chief of staff for the state House told a preservation commission Thursday.

Chad Warmington told members of the State Capitol Preservation Commission that House members have "a growing negative reaction" to the mural.

"They think it doesn't belong in the Capitol," he said. "It doesn't fit. It's not historic. It's not very well done."

Warmington denied the displeasure had anything to do with the mural being the first artwork by a Hispanic to be displayed at the Capitol.

"They don't know who painted this painting," he said. "They don't know if he's white, red, yellow, black. They have no clue. They don't like it. They think it looks more like a cartoon. There is no issue, none, with the ethnicity of the artist, with the background of the artist."

Paul Ziriax, who serves as secretary to the Senate, said several senators have also told him they don't like the mural, which hangs in the archway above the Hall of Governors on the second floor of the Capitol.

"We'd be wise to at least give them an opportunity to have their say," said Ziriax, a member of the preservation commission.

Richard Ellwanger, chairman of the preservation commission which approved the mural, defended the artwork and called it well done.

"People don't understand it," he said. "Stylistically it is a little different, but I think colorwise it fits in very well with many of the paintings on that floor ... and the murals that surround the rotunda."

The mural, "Beyond the Centennial," is by Carlos Tello. He is from Mexico and a U.S. citizen living in Oklahoma City. He is a self-taught fresco painter.