The Norman Transcript

N-town stories

September 13, 2013

Sam Noble Museum exhibit focuses on Native American art

NORMAN — Google search “Native American art” and paintings of Native Americans looking out at endless prairies or photos of arrowheads pop up on the screen. A new exhibit at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History is showing this genre can’t be so easily contained to one style.

The exhibit, titled Masterworks of Native American Art: Collections from the Fred and Enid Brown Collection, contains many Native American art pieces created in the 21st Century, Museum Curator Daniel Swan said.

“We’re celebrating the fact that we’re moving the bounds of the collection into the next century,” he said.

The show, on display Sept. 28 to Jan. 5, 2014, features never before exhibited pieces, including several recent acquisitions, Swan said. All works are drawn from the Fred and Enid Brown collection.

The original collection consists of more than 235 pieces of Native American art including paintings, sculptures, drawings and much more. The collection roughly spans the years 1970 to 2010, and was donated to the museum by Fred and Enid Brown in 1999.

Swan said in 2002, a bequest by the Browns established an acquisitions endowment to continue to grow the Brown collection of art. The museum has purchased several master works by Native American Oklahoma artists thanks to the acquisition endowment. Some of those pieces are from artists like Walter Richard “Dick” West and Ruthe Blalock Jones.

The collection features some out-of-the-box pieces from movements like the post-graffiti movement.

“These artists, even though from very traditional communities, they are in rural areas,” Swan said. “It’s really interesting when you get that type of very contemporary energy intersecting with traditional lines of interpretation in Native art. You get some very exciting work.”

If you are a regular at art shows featuring Native American art, Swan said you will still be surprised.

“Even from artists that people think they know, they’re going to see works and sides of them that they never would have thought that those people have executed,” Swan said. “So what we’re doing is we’re trying to discern what was modern over a 40-year period, which is a moving target. It changes every day. You are not going to see…what typically comes to mind when people hear that term [Native American art].”

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