Saturday, May 27, 2017
A Window on an "Invisible" World
When: through June 4, 2017
This is one of those exhibits that was different than I thought it would be. I knew it would be photographs, but I wasn't expecting the type of pictures on display or the intriguing nature of the photographer. Just goes to show, you need to go to the show.
Horace Poolaw was a Native American living in Oklahoma, at a confluence of tribes, all pushed together by the federal government, who wanted them to give up their traditions and culture and acclimate into white America. He photographed his people as they truly were, keeping their culture alive while adopting some of white culture. While outsiders came to see "authentic Indians," Poolaw recorded the lives of real native people.
Poolaw was not a professional photographer, in that he never made a living by his work, but he was trained by professionals and judged his own output against what he saw in Life magazine. At the time of his death, he had not labeled most of his negatives, and he never had the money to print them.
Happily, the Horace Poolaw Photography Project at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma is seeking to remedy that situation. The current display is the fruit of their labors, scanning the negatives and researching the people in the pictures.
This is in the large special exhibit space on the 3rd floor, and the set-up is really good. Each photo has a lot of wall space, so you can focus on each image without other shots competing for your attention. There are also cut outs in the dividers (see my photo above) that gave me the idea for the "window" description.
Poolaw's daughter, Linda Poolaw, said that her father never took these photographs in order to be remembered, but so that people would remember themselves. I hope that both the people and their photographer can be remembered by those that see this exhibit.
Verdict: Fine show: both the artist and his subjects are engaging, and the design of the exhibit space supports the work.