Native American art exhibit in Norman features wide scope of works

BY JOHN BRANDENBURG Modified: September 30, 2012 at 12:26 am •  Published: September 30, 2012
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A vast array of artistic creations from “The James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection,” striking for both its scope and the excellence of individual works, is on view at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

Supplying a one-two punch, in a run that continues through Dec. 30 at the University of Oklahoma museum, are an exhibit of “Selected Works” on the first floor, and a smaller “Indigenous Aesthetics” show on the third.

Begun in 1964 by the Phoenix attorney, the Bialac collection, which was given to OU in 2010, contains more than 4,000 objects, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, kachinas, pottery and jewelry.

Among early works is a crayon sketch of “Two Warriors on a Horse,” looking more playful than warlike, done in the traditional plains style in about 1880, by an anonymous Northern Cheyenne artist.

Flat, but stylized, is Harrison Begay's undated watercolor of a line of costumed “Navajo Yei'bichai Dancers,” angling across the horizontal picture plane, their white body paint making them stand out dramatically.

Blue-gray winds over the heads of Indians, trying to pull up the body of one man, become integral to a melancholy 1969 watercolor by Choctaw artist Valjean McCarty Hessing called “Some Died Along the Way.”