Meet the Faculty: Artmaking at OSU, 1950s-style

This week is the opening week for the Art Department Faculty Exhibition (September 26 – October 7). Over the next two weeks, we invite you to see what our Studio and Graphic Design faculty have been working on during the past year—and, in an accompanying series of roundtable discussions, you can hear about the Art History faculty’s current research as well! Our current faculty continues in a long tradition of excellence at Oklahoma State, and so it was a pleasant coincidence, but not a surprise, when I recently came across an article about “Art in Oklahoma,” from the January 1952 issue of the Oklahoma A&M College Magazine, in which the achievements of the OSU Art Department are celebrated. What follows are some excerpts and images from that article; you can find the entire piece in the OSU Library’s Special Collections.

“The gifted professoriate of A&M’s art department is commanding wide attention in American galleries and painter circles as representative of what one notable judge has called, ‘the Oklahoma manner in art.’ It is a trend that started in the early 20s, [and] that has gained momentum for the past decade…”

“Most of these artists at A&M are Oklahoma born, Oklahoma-schooled and paint the Oklahoma scene avidly. Despite their study in the various art centers of America and the world, they have returned to their native state for their inspiration, subject material and residency. … The strictly Oklahoma group includes: Dale McKinney, J. Jay McVicker, Elinor Evans, and Ella Jack. … In addition to the artist personnel itself now at A&M, Rena Penn Brittan is doing an outstanding job in design, and ceramics under Idress Cash is a wonderful story in itself.”

Original caption: "Miss Elinor Evans, left, shows her modern version of "Plants in a Hothouse," above, along with Sam Olkinetzky (department historian, critic and painter), right, who exhibited his interesting modern version "Of Bridges" in one of the early winter campus shows at A&M."

“Miss Evans is described as ‘a young master at balancing realistic form with creative responsibility.’ She is the youngest of A&M’s skillful art professors, exhibiting her paintings nationally. … The freshness of her studies in abstract and modern compositions has made her popular with jurymen and critics throughout the land.”

Excerpt from original caption: "...Dale McKinney is shown beside his street scene composition, done in the medium of casein and exhibited on the A&M campus."

McKinney’s favorite medium is serigraphy or silk screen processing. … To him American artists are indebted for a new silk processing method, invented after years of experimentation. It is a contribution of considerable consequence as a fine arts medium and in advertising design work. A rich colorist, McKinney is a favorite of collectors whose oils and water colors marshal into positive being the essence of the locale he presents.”

J. Jay McVicker has kept Oklahoma in the limelight for the past decade through numerous prizes and awards. His skillfully-techniqued etchings and paintings are ranked among the best of the nation’s younger artists. … In his strictly moderns, he has won highest praise for the clarity of his symbolism.”

Original caption: "Ella Jack, well known for her fine composition and color and winner of many awards, is shown at work in her studio. Miss Jack has been on the art staff almost from the first and is known by thousands of Aggie students who took art."

Miss Jack [paints] with unerring artistry the Oklahoma scene both in water color and oil. Versatile in many mediums, she is considered a choice exhibitor and her brilliant design and color have gone into pieces of lasting quality. Former student of Edouard Vysekal, Millard Sheets, and Norman Edwards, her shows from coast to coast have made her one of the state’s most representative interpreters.”

“The A&M art professoriate has created an inspirational atmosphere for their students. This is at once discernable in their work provinces, in the creative encouragement they give their classes, and in the continuous shows of traditional and modern masters they sponsor as well as of the student work. Not least is the host of successful students they have turned out, whose art production is achieving high distinction for them as well as their mentors.”

Please join us for the opening reception for this year’s Faculty Exhibition, Thursday, September 29, 5-6pm.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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8 Responses to Meet the Faculty: Artmaking at OSU, 1950s-style

  1. Charles R. Conley says:

    If would of been nice if have included the complete link to “Art in Oklahoma,” from the January 1952 issue of the Oklahoma A&M College Magazine. I have one Dale McKinney’s paintings.
    It is not dated. I can email a picture, if anyone is interested. I was a student of his between 1965-1969. I also have a VHS tape of light show (?) he did.

    • osucurator says:

      I would have loved to include the complete link, but unfortunately the article is not available online! The copy at Special Collections was the only one I could find here at OSU, although I first saw it in the home of a collector.

      We’re great fans of Dale McKinney’s work here — I’d love to see a photograph of your painting! And I’d also love to hear more about what it was like to be Dale’s student. I know he influenced a lot of people. I’ll email you so that you have my contact information!

      Louise.

  2. Bill says:

    I just recevied a painting of Dale McKinney’s. On the back of it reads “Painted by Dale McKinney, Oklahoma State, Picture Aquired – 1948 and is called “Landscape of Western Oklahoma”.

  3. osucurator says:

    Bill,

    What great news! McKinney’s work from the 1940s is typically on the cusp of his shift to abstraction. A wonderful 1949 landscape from our collection is currently on view in the office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, in Life Sciences East. How does your painting compare to the one shown in this article?

    Louise.

  4. Bill says:

    it’s a bit different. i think it is abstract, but I am flat line stupid when it comes to art. no grading on a curve for me. Anyway…. If you would like, i can send you photos. just let me know the email address!

  5. Elinor Evans died this year at the age of 102 in Houston, Texas. She remained a practicing artist until the very end of her life. I am sure she would have been thrilled to know that people at OSU were still discovering her work !

    • osucurator says:

      Martha, thank you so much for sharing this sad news. I had the profound pleasure of spending the day with Elinor a couple of years ago, and she was alert, brilliant, and engaging. She will be missed by everyone who knew her, but her work and her teaching will certainly carry her legacy on.

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