All kinds of research happens at the OSU Museum of Art, as long-time readers of this blog know only too well. Students, faculty, community members, and others all use the collection to enhance their experience of academia and their knowledge of the community.
As curator of the collection, I’ve obviously done a fair amount of research myself — much of which was encapsulated in our collection catalogue, Sharing a Journey. But occasionally there is more to be said about individual works of art or artists than we could fit into a broad overview or a short blog post (well, I think that’s true of everything in our collection, actually!). A couple of years ago I was invited to give a talk at a symposium organized by Dennis Preston, of the Center for Oklahoma Studies, entitled “Images of Oklahoma.” For the symposium, I offered a brief overview of the work of two collection artists, whose art happened to be on display in the building we were in: Doel Reed and Jacques Hans Gallrein.
To be honest, neither would have been my first choice as research subject—but as so often happens with research, serendipity won out, and when Dennis asked if symposium participants would be interested in developing their talks for publication, I naturally said yes. Thanks to donor Michael Graham, the OSUMA had recently acquired a small archive related to Gallrein, and so there was a natural path for me to follow as I expanded upon my thoughts. Reed and Gallrein, it transpires, were an interesting pair: their biographies are strikingly similar in outline, and they both had strong ties to Stillwater, but their work and their career paths were nonetheless surprisingly divergent. I set out to explain this divergence and discovered an interesting story.
For various reasons, our symposium-based publication fell through, but I am happy to say that my research has just been published in Great Plains Quarterly, and the OSUMA’s painting, Oklahoma Farm, by Doel Reed, is the cover image of the issue.
Research is a vital component of any museum, but at an academic museum it forms part of the lifeblood of the institution—connecting the collection to the broader mission of the university and embodying the kinds of collaboration, mentorship, and professional activity to which we expect our students to aspire. Moreover, by sharing work from our collection with a broader audience, we enhance the significance and reputation of the OSUMA and the history of art in Oklahoma.
The current issue of Great Plains Quarterly is available digitally to OSU affiliates through Project MUSE. A hard copy of the current issue is also available to the public at OSU’s Edmon Low Library.