The Norman Transcript

September 13, 2013

Sam Noble Museum exhibit focuses on Native American art

by Emily Summars
The Norman Transcript

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].”

The exhibit features some large-scale pieces executed by multiple artists, more traditional works and a little something for the whole family.

Spokesperson for the museum, Jennifer Tregarthen, said the exhibit offers something for people of all ages, including young art connoisseurs in training.

“I believe that for historical purposes, as well as cultural purposes, there is a lot to learn from this exhibit…there is so much to learn,” Tregarthen said. “We try to incorporate a kid friendly atmosphere with every part of our exhibits. We will have a scavenger hunt at the front desk for families to pick up so children can look for little tidbits of information and then turn it in for a prize.”

Swan said he and the museum have been working on the show for more than a year. Like any good curator, he thanks the donors, endowments and everything that helps “enrich the educational and public environment.”

“When you get down to the core of it, people should come for lots of different reasons,” Swan said. “…Because it’s a curated show, all the work presents an overall theme. If you’re interested in Native Arts this is the only place you’re going to see it.”

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit

Admission to the museum is $5 for adults and $3 for children 6-17 years. There is no additional fee to view the exhibit.