Beginnings

Let me warn you right from the start that it is 1:43 in the morning and my English major writing skills are fading fast. I truly apologize for the lameness of this, my first blog post, and pray that you will keep reading, whoever you are, you random person out there who actually cares what I am doing in Oklahoma for the next week. Please don’t judge me too hard.

So – I have been in Oklahoma for more than 24 hours now, but I’ve been too exhausted/lazy/busy (mostly that last one) to begin this blog until tonight. Here it goes.

Myself, Jade, Zac, Professor Moretti-Langholtz, and Dr. Gorman are all in Oklahoma for the week doing research and acquiring art for the exhibit we’re curating on the Kiowa Five. The Kiowa Five were a group of native artists who brought international attention to native art in the 1920s and 30s. The exhibit (currently untitled – we’ll get into the reasons later) opens in September at the Muscarelle, and also focuses on ledger art, which came before the Kiowa Five, and contemporary native artwork, which was influenced by the Kiowa Five. For more on this topic, please see our Muscarelle press release (which will be ready…sometime this week).

Wow I used “Kiowa Five” a lot in that paragraph. But you’ll just have to get used to that. They come up a lot.

We all flew into Dallas/Fort Worth on Friday the third of June, got in a rental car, and started driving toward Norman, Oklahoma. Norman is significant for many reasons; not only is it the home of the University of Oklahoma, where the Kiowa Five were trained in art, but it also contains the Jacobson House, a museum crucial to our research, as well as the Tribes 131 native art gallery, which we have already visited (serendipitously, actually – we were really looking for Target at the time).

Anyway, we spent most of Friday evening on the road. We watched the earth turn steadily redder (Oklahoma means “red earth” in the Choctaw language) and admired the sunset and the unique rock structures (don’t ask me why they’re special, I’m not a geologist). When we got to Norman we paid that lovely (if unexpected) visit to the gallery, ran to Target for sunscreen and toothpaste, and then practically fell into bed. At least, that’s what I did.

Today we drove to Oklahoma City, which isn’t at all far from Norman, to attend the annual Red Earth Festival. It’s a gathering for native artists to sell their work, and it also includes competitive powwow dancing (I’m going to try and add a video below, so look out for that – it was fabulous!). I spent a lot of money, but, more importantly, Jade and Zac and I interviewed 5 or 6 artists, from various tribes across the country, asking questions about their influences and inspirations, as well as their views on culture and history what makes an artist an artist. I also spent a lot of money – but it was well worth it. And oh, the fry bread!

They say Red Earth is on the wane, though. This was its 25th year running, I believe, but the Professor said it used to be much larger. Some people think the center of native art has shifted more toward Santa Fe, which has always been huge. To me it seemed amazing; it was only the second powwow I’ve been to, and the art was fabulous, and the people were friendly. And there was fry bread. Yeah, it’s worth mentioning twice.

Other things of note:

1. The billboards out here are ridiculous – and super entertaining. For example: there was a beer billboard with an actual waterfall in the center. Also, there were two adjacent billboards, the top one advertising liquor, and the bottom, it seemed, advertising meth (of course, upon closer reading, we saw that it was advising against the use of meth). But it was still disconcerting.

2. The Target here has a produce section. Which is really convenient, I guess, but it somehow seems wrong.

3. Sunlight falls at a different angle than at home. Dry heat is even lovelier than I’d remembered from when I was in Mesa Verde years ago, but it’s true what they say about not realizing you’re dehydrated. And it doesn’t help that my cute but cheap NYC sunglasses are broken.

4. Sonic is delicious. We ate there for dinner tonight, and stayed for hours sitting outside and talking about everything and everything – our favorite foods, TV shows, restaurants; our families; our first-pick colleges; and of course there was more. The Professor has such amazing stories. We didn’t get back to the hotel until almost midnight, but that’s all right because we get to sleep in tomorrow!

Okay, that’s enough for days one and two. Look at all the pretty pictures & videos below, if you so choose. It may give you (whoever you are, you silly person who has continued to read this) a better idea of what it’s like out here, so far from my beloved New England.

Please, please bear in mind – I am tired. None of this post makes sense. Tomorrow’s will be infinitely better, I promise.

PHOTO GALLERY, PART I:

This was one of the first things we saw as we crossed into Oklahoma – it was a lot bigger than the “Welcome to Oklahoma” sign. Interpret that as you will.

The infamous Liquor/Meth billboards. Somebody really wasn’t paying attention when they let this happen…

The amazing sunset last night, captured somewhere between Dallas and Norman.

Male fancy dancers, coming into the powwow arena as part of the entrance dance, which includes all kinds of dancers (shawl dancers, grass dancers, jingle dancers, etc.). I have video of a lot of the dancing, but this silly blog won’t let me upload it.

About Rachel Isadore Steinberg

I'm Rachel. I'm a writer, a reader, a tea drinker, a tree climber, a dog lover, a journaler, a wonderer, a wanderer, an advocate, a believer, and a baker.
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