“Framing History: Highlights of the Oklahoma State Capitol Senate Collection” opens today at the OSU Museum of Art Postal Plaza Gallery.
The collection features artworks ranging from oil paintings and watercolors to sculptures, but the unifying theme is the collection of frames that surround the pieces.
Former State Sen. Charles R. Ford, president of the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, established this collection of historic and modern pieces.
Ford also collected many frames to match the tone and historic perspective of the artwork.
“It serves as a valuable resource, sharing the history and culture of Oklahoma while also celebrating the process of making art and telling stories,” said Victoria Rowe Berry, director of the OSU Museum of Art.
The Postal Plaza Gallery opened in January after three years of planning, organization and renovation.
“We applaud former Sen. Charles R. Ford for his leadership in establishing the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund,” said OSU President Burns Hargis.
“During OSU Museum of Art’s inaugural year, we are thrilled to have the support and encouragement of Ford and our Art Advisory Council,” Hargis said.
“We celebrate the artists who, with a stroke of paint, capture stories as well as create an impression of a historic event,” Berry said. “The frames that surround the paintings — works of art themselves — provide an opportunity to focus our attention on each individual piece.”
Berry said the frames create a window into a historical event.
“Just as a window frame structures what we see as we look through a window, the frame of a painting shapes the story within,” Berry said.
After the exhibition leaves the Postal Plaza Gallery, the Oklahoma Senate Collection will be transferred into the state’s records and will not travel again.
Historian Bob Burke, writing in the catalog for the exhibition, praised Ford’s commitment to finding the right frames for the paintings.
“There was a deeper purpose for Sen. Ford — he wanted paintings in the State Capitol to appear as if they were painted during the period of history they reflected,” Burke wrote.
To accomplish the right look for each painting, Ford began scouring his hometown of Tulsa for antique frames. He soon took his search to Kansas City, Dallas and Washington, D.C.
Often he bought cheap art just to get the frame. Once at a Dallas flea market, he bought a painting whose canvas was split down the middle, but the ornate frame was what he had in mind for an upcoming commission.
If an antique frame was available, Ford asked the artist to paint the commissioned piece to the size of the frame. However, for most paintings, Ford ordered custom, hand-carved frames.
Ford’s favorite frame in the Senate Art Collection surrounds the painting of President Theodore Roosevelt signing the proclamation making Oklahoma the 46th state on Nov. 16, 1907.
Ford found the large gold leaf and gesso frame in Dallas. It was only the second frame he purchased.
“The frame is special,” Ford said, “because it looks as if it was especially handmade at statehood to frame the painting of such a significant event in Oklahoma history.”
The exhibition will be on view until Oct. 18, with a public reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 14. See more about the exhibition by clicking HERE.
The Postal Plaza Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information about the museum, visit museum.okstate.edu.