A Land Both Far and Near

Author: Kris Duenner
Category: Museum
Date Published: September 23, 2019

A Land Both Far and Near


Search­ing for that per­fect spot where the beau­ty of nature, his­to­ry, and art col­lide in a decades-old estate sit­u­at­ed on a hill that feels more like a thou­sand miles from a large busy city that is only min­utes away from down­town Tul­sa?  Here is the place!  Just a short dri­ve from down­town are the gates of the Gilcrease Muse­um, quick­ly remind­ing the guest that some­times a true sanc­tu­ary of won­der can be found in Tul­sa and only min­utes away from Tulsa’s sur­round­ing areas. Don’t live in Tul­sa?  Gilcrease Muse­um is def­i­nite­ly worth the trip whether dri­ving from the far­thest cor­ners of Okla­homa or vis­it­ing from anoth­er state.

The Muse­um found­ed in the ’40s by Thomas Gilcrease, who was of Creek Indi­an Ances­try, and an oil man who had a deep appre­ci­a­tion of art.  With­out a doubt, that appre­ci­a­tion led to the cur­rent col­lec­tion that is main­tained at Gilcrease Muse­um and is a nation­al­ly rec­og­nized muse­um by patrons of the art world for its exten­sive col­lec­tion of Amer­i­can West Art, Native Amer­i­can Art, His­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments, and arti­facts dat­ing back thou­sands of years.  In addi­tion to the trea­sures to be found inside the main muse­um build­ing, The Helmerich Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Research is only steps away.  Here is found what seems to be unend­ing infor­ma­tion that has been col­lect­ed and stored mak­ing it pos­si­ble to lit­er­al­ly spend months pour­ing over the exten­sive col­lec­tion of books, doc­u­ments, and his­tor­i­cal maps. 

Usu­al­ly, when read­ing an arti­cle about any muse­um, the arti­cle always cov­ers the art col­lec­tion and some­times even the archi­tec­ture will be not­ed.  How­ev­er, Gilcrease is not just “any” muse­um, and sim­ply point­ing out the beau­ty of the art col­lec­tions or the his­to­ries com­mu­ni­cat­ed through the art­work, arti­facts, and doc­u­ments would not suf­fi­cient­ly tell the whole sto­ry of what will be encoun­tered dur­ing a vis­it to Gilcrease Muse­um.  This par­tic­u­lar expe­ri­ence starts before reach­ing the park­ing area, dri­ving through the mono­grammed gates, with the car wind­ing upward through the sand­stone gardens. 

Breath­tak­ing are the views atop this hill where the muse­um, and for­mer home of Thomas Gilcrease and his fam­i­ly lived. The Gilcrease fam­i­ly house still stands today.  This incred­i­bly cared for, and pre­served estate is not only where the fam­i­ly lived, but the final rest­ing place of the imme­di­ate fam­i­ly. The grounds of the muse­um are sit­u­at­ed and sur­round­ed by thick, lush, beau­ti­ful­ly land­scaped gar­dens, beau­ti­ful trees, com­plete with grassy areas, sculp­tures scat­tered through­out the prop­er­ty.  For the enjoy­ment of these gar­dens and the sur­round­ings out­side of the muse­um, park bench­es are pristine­ly locat­ed in the exact per­fect spot.  Bench­es which offer the vis­i­tor the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sit qui­et­ly soak­ing in the scenery where the only sounds are the birds singing, crick­ets chirp­ing, or the occa­sion­al croak­ing frog. The grounds are the per­fect place to become lost with­in the nat­ur­al beau­ty of an estate of a for­mer era.

Pre­served, and del­i­cate­ly cared for is this gift of unique gar­dens, with all the majesty of dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed plants, trees, and bil­low­ing flow­ers.  These unique spaces are with­out a doubt, the per­fect spot for pho­tog­ra­phers, sketch­ers, and painters.  Whether the plan is to cre­ate a per­son­al mas­ter­piece or to sim­ply tour the muse­um, plan­ning extra time to enjoy the sur­round­ing gar­dens, sculp­tures, and extra­or­di­nary views, will be an impor­tant part of the visit.

Once the mag­i­cal walk that starts on the main lev­el is under­way, mov­ing from piece to piece, iden­ti­fy­ing only one “favorite” among the thou­sands of pieces avail­able to view will be a dif­fi­cult task.  Found in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion in the upper gal­leries are elo­quent and beau­ti­ful art depict­ing the Old Amer­i­can West and Native Amer­i­can life.  The stun­ning oil paint­ings adorn­ing the gallery walls brings art to life as if there is no oth­er world exist­ing beyond. The feel­ings that are stirred inside are sim­i­lar to feel­ings of a new love affair. An affair that grows, and changes, so it is with each piece of art absorbed along the way.

It’s hard not to fall in love with all of Thomas Moran’s work or that of George Catlin.  The most spec­tac­u­lar and emo­tion­al stir­ring will sure­ly be the expe­ri­ence when the oil on can­vas paint­ed by Catlin in 1854 is exam­ined.  This paint­ing mean­ing­ful­ly named, “Buf­faloes” will undoubt­ed­ly be ful­ly appre­ci­at­ed as to the unset­tling, seem­ing­ly real inter­ac­tion with the buf­fa­lo that appears to be speak­ing direct­ly to the soul through its eyes.  A direct gaze, so real that this it would be indis­tin­guish­able from what could ever be cap­tured in a pho­to­graph.  Soon, after tak­ing in all of the extra­or­di­nary pieces on the plaza lev­el, await­ing in a gallery below are pieces steeped in the rich his­to­ry of times long, long passed.

Tucked away down­stairs is a gallery full of beau­ti­ful, and breath­tak­ing arti­facts, tools, woven bas­kets, and pot­tery that have a date range from BCE to the 1700s. So numer­ous are these pieces on dis­play in this gallery, that the cre­ation of a dig­i­tal tablet sys­tem allows for the view­er to absorb the full expe­ri­ence, and abun­dant details sur­round­ing each piece locat­ed in this gallery.  Once down­stairs, the 70 tablets are imme­di­ate­ly in view on the wall, and avail­able to help aid the vis­i­tor in acquir­ing a full under­stand­ing of the art and arti­facts in this gallery. These tablets bril­liant­ly allow for infor­ma­tion about each object to be eas­i­ly dis­played on the screen by using an alpha/numeric sys­tem locat­ed next to each item on the shelves and with­in the drawers.

Shelves, and shelves house pot­tery, woven bas­kets, and arti­facts cre­at­ed by the dif­fer­ent tribes and from dif­fer­ent times through­out his­to­ry.  Each piece has a label beside it con­tain­ing let­ters and or num­bers that allow for the input into the tablet which dis­plays the details about each piece. Sit­u­at­ed under the glassed encased shelves are pull out draw­ers, also num­bered pro­vid­ing the infor­ma­tion about a par­tic­u­lar piece.  In these draw­ers are found tools, art, and arti­facts some dat­ing back cen­turies. Each piece pro­vid­ing a glimpse into a dis­tant unknown past.

This gallery below tells a sto­ry about objects cre­at­ed not only as art, but tools that were cre­at­ed hun­dreds, some­times thou­sands of years ago, that enlight­ens the imag­i­na­tion to the ways of life of var­i­ous cul­tures, and to the ways in which sur­vival was achieved.  Both the tools, and the art that was cre­at­ed tells a sto­ry about par­tic­u­lar cul­tures, and how life was lived in var­i­ous regions of the world.
The per­ma­nent col­lec­tions in this muse­um cov­er thou­sands of years of his­to­ry with the his­tor­i­cal rich­ness on dis­play ripe with sto­ries of antiq­ui­ty depict­ed through art, and arti­facts help­ing to bridge the dis­tant past to cur­rent times, and how the con­tri­bu­tions of the var­i­ous cul­tures have shaped and over­lapped with one anoth­er ulti­mate­ly cre­at­ing this cur­rent world.
Gilcrease Muse­um, just as it has for decades, will con­tin­ue to con­tribute to the edu­ca­tion and under­stand­ing of var­i­ous cul­tures of the past by mak­ing avail­able its vast col­lec­tions on dis­play for the enjoy­ment of the guests of today, and gen­er­a­tions of tomor­row.  Gilcrease Muse­um sub­tly stirs a new under­stand­ing and appre­ci­a­tion of Native Amer­i­can and Amer­i­can West Art.

For more infor­ma­tion about the muse­um, and the spec­tac­u­lar, exhibits please refer to the web­site gilcrease.org for all the cur­rent dates of exhibits and events.

Kris Duen­ner

Author, Busi­ness Development

“I am very proud to be a part of the tal­ent at Unique­la­homa, an online mag­a­zine that is a place to learn about the rich his­to­ry of Okla­homa, as well as unique sto­ries about amaz­ing peo­ple, places and excit­ing events hap­pen­ing statewide.  Pre­vi­ous­ly, I worked in oil and gas, and after liv­ing in DC and Hous­ton, I moved back to Okla­homa.  Cur­rent­ly, I stay busy writ­ing for Uniquelahoma.com, work­ing for a non­prof­it, and work­ing in retail.” 

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