The Betty Price Gallery, located on the first floor of the Oklahoma State Capitol, houses the Oklahoma State Art Collection. The collection is a visual anthology of the history of artistic expression in Oklahoma. Curated by the Oklahoma Arts Council, the current exhibition features nearly 100 works of art by artists who were born in, trained in or have produced a significant portion of their work in the state.
The current Oklahoma State Art Collection exhibition is organized into five sections: Highlights of the Collection, Fiber Arts, Landscapes, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Sculpture.
The Highlights of the Collection section features more than 20 masterworks by artists including Charles Banks Wilson, Alexandra Alaupovic, Benjamin Harjo, Jr., Joe Goode, and Bert Seabourn. Capturing a full range of expression, the works consist of a vast array of media including sculpture, painting, printmaking, ceramics and mixed media. As initiators, these artists embraced innovation and progressive expression, and ushered new challenges and directions for Oklahoma artists. Their legacy is alive within the art schools they established and can be experienced in the works of those they inspire.
This Land is Our Land is a section of the gallery dedicated to the landscape. Included artworks in this section reveal the various artistic styles employed to capture Oklahoma landscapes as well views from across America. From the Sherrie McGraw’s oil painting Low Clouds in the Mountains to Robert Gartland’s watercolor on paper Salt Fork of the Red River, Oklahoma artists have captured the power of nature through many media. With Rick McClure’s Bricktown Trolley, Adah M. Robinson’s Tulsa Cityscape, and Bill Harrison’s Snow on the Sangre de Cristos, this section offers a wonderful view of the world from the artists’ eyes.The Fiber Art section explores the many processes artists use to create with fiber. Featuring techniques like rug-hooking, employed in Martha Wagner’s I’m On To Oklahoma, to photo-transfers on silk, used in Elia Wood’s A Bowl of Summer, this section showcases the diversity of a genre of art that has existed for thousands of years yet continues to offer innovations. From silk-dyeing and paper-making to stitching and felting, Oklahoma artists have honored their craft and continue a strong tradition of the fiber arts in our state.
The Contemporary Art section integrates selected paintings, ceramics, sculptures, and mixed media works. This broad selection displays significant examples of the major art movements and directions that influenced Oklahoma artists over the last century. Created from the early 1900s to the present, these works make it possible to trace the transition from the end of the Modern Art era to the emergence of new artistic developments in contemporary art in Oklahoma.
Not surprisingly, in conjunction with the Collection's establishment in 1971, the Collection is notably strong in contemporary art of the 1960s and 1970s. Significant postwar developments include Abstract Expressionism, Geometric Abstraction, and Post-Painterly Abstraction by noted artists George Bogart, Bob Barker and Leon Polk Smith.
The Sculpture section features works in media ranging from classical bronze to contemporary metals. These works explore the power of sculpture to depict familiar forms as well as their effect on the space around them. Ranging from the representative to the abstract, the sculptures in this section exhibit styles from traditional forms to contemporary interpretations.
As the direction of many contemporary sculptors continues to change in technique and theme, sculptors incorporate new media and common objects in their works. In Melvin R. Smith's The Ford Mask, the artist utilizes an ordinary object, the frame of a Ford Ranger truck, to construct an African-American inspired mask. In addition, contemporary sculptors are expanding their repertoire to include functionality into their works as seen in Kelly Gale Amen's 1898 Weatherford, Oklahoma bronze bench.