Defying the Stereotype

Gilcrease Museum welcomes two exhibitions in July that broaden concepts of Native American and cowboy culture.

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Two Guns Arikara, 1974–77. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Anne Aberbach and Family, Paradise Valley, Arizona. © 2018 Estate of T. C. Cannon. Photo by Thosh Collins. T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem,
Massachusetts.

Both a variety of works from Oklahoma artist T.C. Cannon and a collection of photographs from Blake Little come to the Gilcrease Museum in July.

Cannon, a Lawton native and one of the best known Native American artists of the 20th century, lived a short but prolific life, dying at age 31. His paintings, paper pieces, recordings and poetry come to the museum in the first major traveling exhibition of his work since 1990; these pieces, on a variety of mediums, explore his American Indian heritage, the political climate of the 1960s and 1970s, his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran and, in general, his multi-faceted identity as an American.

“While Gilcrease holds many historical examples of Native American painting, we are now beginning to show modern and contemporary work as well,” says Laura Fry, senior curator for Gilcrease. “T.C. Cannon’s brilliant paintings challenge long-held stereotypes about Native cultures and show that ‘Native artwork’ is not limited to any specific media or style.”

Artistic and musical influences abound in Cannon’s works – noted inspirations include Van Gogh, Matisse and Rauschenberg, along with Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. The show, entitled T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America, opens July 14 and runs until Oct. 7.

Brian Cornell, Hayward, California, 1989.
Photos courtesy Gilcrease

You can also explore the undiscovered world of the national gay rodeo circuit in a collection of photographs entitled Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo. The show seeks to expand and even redefine the idea of what – exactly – a cowboy can be.

“The Gilcrease collection includes some of the best-known artworks of the American West, including 19th-century imagery of rugged cowboys that inspired more than a century of western film and pop culture,” Fry says. “But this narrow depiction of masculinity does not present the full spectrum of western history and culture. Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo expands perceptions of identity in the American West, showing how the gay rodeo provides a community for LGTBQ individuals and their families to celebrate their full identities as westerners.”

The exhibition includes 41 photos, all black and white, taken between 1988 and 1992; viewers can explore the lives of the many participants during that fascinating period of time in the American West.

The show runs July 7-Nov. 25. Visit gilcrease.org for details.

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