A fine balance between painting and sculpture — parallel to that between art and a political career in his life — is found in a show of work by Enoch Kelly Haney. The “Touching the Past” exhibit of paintings, prints and sculpture by the Seminole and Creek artist is on view at the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum.
Haney is the creator of “The Guardian” figure atop the dome of the Capitol, where he served as a state representative from 1980 to 1986, and as a state senator from 1986 to 2002.
A kneeling tribal elder, armed only with a feathered rattle, doesn't seem afraid of a serpent on a log as he teaches a boy about “Seminole Snake Medicine” in a deft acrylic painting on paper or mat board.
A ghostly newborn baby appears in the blue smoke of a log fire in front of a corn row, as three Indian men participate in a “New Life, Corn Ceremony,” in a well-handled tempera on mat board work.
Realistic, yet mythically evocative, are acrylics of an owl spirit being literally released from a dying man's body, and of a man with a snake tail, cradled in another's arms, called “Legend of the Snake Clan.”
A stark white background gives a more modern feel to Haney's hand tinted lithograph of a “Sac and Fox Warrior,” seen in profile, with feathers in his hair and a red hand print on his face.
Even more modern and austere is “Preparing for the Dance,” an acrylic in which beaded moccasins, beadwork and a single feather are displayed in front of blocks of color, divided into sky and earth tones.
Rich, deep hues add to the impact of a five-color lithograph, with colored pencil and acrylic paint, of a “Night Warrior,” protected by a shield with a buffalo image. Colorful, too, as well as more freely handled, and almost expressionistic, are his acrylics of a warrior on horseback, “Fighting Back,” and of a red, turquoise, green and purple “Buffalo at Dusk.”
A bald eagle in flight, in front of the sky and an American flag, becomes emblematic of “Democracy” and “Freedom” in two acrylics, and the same bird symbolizes a “search for leadership” in a third.