The Norman Transcript

News Features

September 21, 2012

New art museum exhibit to represent indigenous cultures



The Sam Noble Museum, 2401 Chautauqua Ave., opens “Dancers and Deities: Kachinas from the James T, Bialac Native American Art Collection,” today with free admission to the public.

Southwest Visions: Paintings from the James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection will open Oct. 5. Both exhibits run through Jan. 6, 2013.

Bialac first began collecting the pieces in 1964. His collection now includes a variety of medias and spans 100 years. Bialac said he didn’t confine his purchases to any certain tribe, region, style or artists, but rather bought what he considered to be quality art.

The result is what Eugene B. Adkins and Chief Curator Mark White called a “comprehensive survey of 20th century Native American art.”

“Every artist of influence or importance from the beginning of the century onward is included in this collection,” he said. “It is invaluable as a teaching resource.”

Included Native artists are the likes of Fred Kabotie, Awa Tsireh, Fritz Scholder, Joe Herrera, Allan Houser, Jerome Tiger, Tonita Pena, Helen Hardin, Pablita Velarde, George Morrison, Richard “Dick” West, Patrick DesJarlait and Pop Chalee.

Their work in the collection, paired with the museum’s previously donated Native and Southwest collections (the Eugene B. Adkins Collection and the Rennard Strickland Collection), provides a complete look into Native American art throughout the 20th century, said Heather Ahtone, James T. Bialac assistant curator of Native American and non-Western art.

The combined collections have made OU an important institute to study Native American 20th century art, Ahtone said, and has recently led to the creation of a new, first-of-its-kind doctorate program in art history focusing on the art of the American West and Native American art.

For Bialac, that was the point of making his collection public.

“There is an educational point as well as an aesthetic point,” he said.

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