April 22, 2012
I was in Tulsa last week and as usual when I have a chance to go there, I visited the Philbrook Art Museum. Much of the Philbrook was once the mansion of a very rich oil man and his family. The part that was once his home and the beautiful grounds are truly spectacular. Unfortunately, that is how many think of collecting art today, as a pasttime of the rich. And indeed the price on some gallery art would seem to confirm that.
But as I enjoyed the exhibits at the Philbrook I saw another side to this idea. The Philbrook is located in Oklahoma, which is the state where many Indian tribes ended up after being pushed out of other places. Thus the Philbrook has an extensive exhibit of Indian baskets and pottery. This kind of art is now made for the tourist trade, as anyone who has visited the puebleos of the Southwest can see. But that wasn’t always so.
Although the Indians of frontier days had very little in terms of material wealth and lived very hard lives without modern conveniences, they decorated the objects they used in their daily lives with beautiful designs that often had special tribal meanings. The kinds of baskets and pottery jars that we admire in museums were part of their daily life as they carried water or stored grain. Ordinary people not only owned objects of beauty but used them. The same could be said the the intricate beading used on clothing for special ceremonies.
We don’t have to be rich for art to enhance our daily life too. It doesn’t have to just hang on a wall or sit on a shelf. Today I took a bouquet of roses to church in a pottery vase made by a local artist. On the bed in our guest room is a quilt made by my mother. Both of these are works of art meant to be used. Whether you make art yourself, receive it as gifts, or buy it from local artists, creative expression can find a place in the lives of all of us.