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.
"Lawmakers, when they're elected, are chosen to represent all the people in their district independent of what side of the street they live on, their racial background, their ethnic background," Ellwanger said. "This is the people's house and the artwork should reflect that, as well. This is a diverse state, and it always has been. In fact, it's an entire state of immigrants.
"The fact that we have allowed a limited and narrow scope of work to hang in these halls is perhaps an issue that we should address," Ellwanger said. "Most of the artwork in here, and I'm sorry to say this, was done by middle-aged white men. And it's time that we took a broader approach."
Warmington said he agreed there is a need for diversity of art at the Capitol.
"I don't know if the Hall of Governors is the place for it," he said.
The mural was paid for by the Friends of the Capitol, a nonprofit group that helps fund art and repairs at the Capitol. The State Capitol Preservation Commission approved the mural and where it should be placed. Warmington, a member of the commission, voted for the mural.
Tello took inspiration for his mural from Oklahoma's centennial theme, "A unique history. An extraordinary future."
The left side depicts the state's history from land runs to the Dust Bowl, while the right side focuses on industries such as energy and space exploration.
Ellwanger suggested to Warmington and Ziriax that legislators upset with the mural appear before the commission.
"I, for one, will not succumb to that kind of pressure," he said. "It's an excellent piece of art."