Oklahoma's number one blog for natural and cultural history.

 

The Art of Philanthropy

If you’ve been around our staff for even a minute, then you know we’ve got talent! Olympic-level racers, canine rescue trainers, singers and musicians, romance novelists…we’ve got it all! Impressive? Absolutely. But what’s even more impressive is how these individuals use their gifts to better local, state and even global communities. Take Coral, for example.

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Coral McCallister

McCallister began working as a custodian at the museum in March of 2014. As lifelong artist, her eyes are always open for inspiration. Before long she found Bom Bom, a live-mounted Western lowland gorilla acquired from the Oklahoma City Zoo.

 “I saw Bom Bom many times in various enclosures at the zoo, and like most of us, I was in awe of him and the wildness he represented to me,” McCallister recalled.

 She began sketching after her shifts while mammalogy collections manager Brandi Coyner gathered donations for one of the Oklahoma City Zoo’s annual philanthropic events. As soon as Brandi saw Coral’s work, she saw a perfect fit.

 “Teresa Randall is a friend of mine and asked if the museum could donate a family membership to one of their philanthropic events,” Coyner said. “When I saw Coral’s sketch, I called her back immediately and told her I had something even better.”

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McCallister’s portrait of Bom Bom

 McCallister’s 19-inch by 24-inch pastel creation took nearly 15 hours to complete. Still, she had no reservations about donating her work to Zoobilation, a ZooFriends annual gala and fundraiser for the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital. 

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Conceptualized Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital, OKC Zoo 

Coral made sure that her portrait really captured the essence of Bom Bom, down to the reddish tuft of hair on his head. Perhaps no one appreciates these fine details more than current owner, OKC Zoo head veterinarian Jennifer D’Agostino. D’Agostino was determined to win the piece at the Zoobilation silent auction. 

“There were several other people bidding on it but none that knew Bom Bom,” D’Agostino said. “Once, at the end of a medical procedure, he crashed and almost died. I did CPR on him, and he didn’t wake up for about 13 hours. I stayed with him trying to keep him alive. Because of that, I really had a strong connection with him.” 

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Bom Bom—OKC Zoo, Photo by Gillian Lang 

D’Agostino plans to hang the picture inside her new office at the hospital, as a reminder of Bom Bom’s role as a conservation ambassador for others of this critically endangered species in the wild. 

“We’re here to get people to see and care about these animals,” D’Agostino said. “Conservation is a global effort, but everything we do has an impact on conservation. We can all make a difference, even in Oklahoma.”

Of course, Coral is as humble as can be about all of her philanthropic efforts, including those with the Norman Chocolate Festival and Nature Conservancy. For her, art is a connection—both human and animalistic. In this way, McCallister hopes to continue using her art to engage with others.

 “I like feeling tied into everyone else,” McCallister said. “Art has gotten me through some of the hardest times of my life, and it makes life worthwhile. Giving back creates a kind of oneness, and it’s really a beautiful thing.”

Birds of a Feather

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White Gyrfalcon by George Sutton, Date Unknown

Wait, art AND science?

Art and science are often viewed as polar disciplines, pursuits that seldom overlap and engage opposite ends of the brain - but it’s unlikely that George M. Sutton, exceptional illustrator and accomplished scientist, would agree. Throughout his lifetime, Sutton made invaluable contributions to both ornithology and art through his unbelievably realistic sketches of wildlife, which are currently available for public viewing.

So, what should I expect?

To be amazed. The Sam Noble Museum houses 3,500 of Sutton’s 20,000 paintings and has selected 75 astounding watercolor portraits for the George M. Sutton: Exploring Art and Science exhibit, which transforms the simplistic, streamlined gallery space into a lush, exotic hub of dazzling plumage. The exhibit primarily features artwork from Sutton’s Mexico, Arctic and United State’s expeditions and a few personal items of Sutton’s, including his treasured paint box.

What kinds of birds did Sutton paint?

Although this collection features a dazzling array of species from several exotic destinations, the exhibit is bound together by the passion of one extraordinary man. You can expect to see a diverse array of species in nearly every imaginable landscape, from arctic tundra to Mexican jungle.

Who is George Sutton, anyways?

George Miksch Sutton, a renowned artist, writer, explorer and teacher, followed his love of ornithology to the University of Oklahoma in 1952. During his lifetime, Sutton traveled on many expeditions in the continental United States, as well as to the Artic north, Mexico and South America. By the time of his death, he had written 12 books, over 200 scientific journal articles and illustrated at least 18 books. Impressive, right? Additionally, the George Miksh Sutton Avian Research Center was founded in 1983 to aid in aviary conservation.

Is it really worth a trip to the museum?

Absolutely. It isn’t everyday you get to see top-notch watercolor paintings alongside state-of-the-art science education, and that’s not something you want to miss. The exhibit will be on display from Jan. 18 to April 20, so there is plenty of time to plan your family daytrip. Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. once said, “Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity.” He’s right, you know. Don’t wait – flock in today.

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Black-bellied Plovers by George Sutton, Aug. 1966

Inside the Treasure Box: Week Three

Finally, it’s Wednesday! We know you’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting for today’s #ITTB. Well, you’re in luck. Today’s artifact, submitted by the ethnology department, has quite a rich and far-reaching history. You won’t be disappointed.

Today’s Inside the Treasure Box selection comes from far across the Atlantic Ocean. This gorgeous mosaic dates to the 2nd century AD and hails from the House of Cilicia at Seleucia Pieria, the harbor of ancient Antioch in Turkey. Archaeologists from Princeton University excavated much of this ancient city in the late 1930s. This mosaic served as the flooring of a triclinium, or dining room, and it represents a personification of the Roman territory of Kilikia, or Cilicia.

Traditionally, in a triclinium, there are three couches arranged in a U-shape along three walls of the room to produce an open area in the center of the room, used for serving food to guests. The area underneath the couches would be decorated with relatively simple designs while the central area of the triclinium would often feature the most elaborate portion of the mosaic, to be the focal point of any banquet.

Want to know the best part about today’s selection? Unlike many of our other ITTB gems, which are too fragile or rare to be placed on display, this Turkish mosaic has a permanent home just outside the Brown Gallery.   Coincidentally, the Brown Gallery is also the home to our newest exhibit, Masterworks of Native American Art. This exhibit features the latest chapter in Native American fine art, highlighting works from 1960 to the present. 

A selection from the “Masterworks” exhibit

With such exquisite culture right around the corner, a trip to the museum is a must for you and your kin. But before you grab your keys and head on over, there’s one last thing! Don’t forget to tune in next week for part four of this eleven-week series. We’re not giving anything away, but you might want to brush up your history, starting with 310 million years ago. That should keep you busy until next week, right? Good. We’ll see you on Wednesday!

Sketching on Instinct

It’s impossible to walk through the Bob Kuhn: Drawing on Extinct exhibit without discovering a wealth of inspiration. The dazzling array of color, flawless brush strokes and astonishing realism beckons to the artist in the each of us. But why wait until you get home to answer the call of artistry?

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 Throughout the exhibit, you will find a handful of sketching benches just waiting to be used. These benches are available to museum visitors of all ages as part of the Teen Volunteer Program. Don’t worry about a pencil. We’ve got you covered! The museum provides all materials and supplies for free, in hopes that you will take advantage of this unique opportunity.

image Bob Kuhn: Drawing on Extinct will run until September 8, 2013. However, if you’re looking for a little pre-visit inspiration, check out the video below by the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

So whether you’re five of thirty-five, let creativity flow free. Experience the raw splendor of the animal kingdom and release your inhibitions. Who knows? You might just be the next Bob Kuhn.

Sneak a peek into Papua New Guinea

Working at a natural history museum is quite a rewarding experience. My enthusiasm is partially from being one of the most recent hires at the museum. I began in September and have enjoyed working with Dan Swan, curator of ethnology, and his team planning our upcoming exhibit, Warrior Spirits: Indigenous Arts from New Guinea. Nearly 100 pieces from the collections of the Sam Noble Museum and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art will be displayed beginning Feb. 4.

The collections include a variety of cultural objects, including masks, drums and ceremonial garments, many of which were collected during surveys in the 1970s assessing petroleum and mineral resources. U.S. soldiers also contributed items collected while Allied Forces manned listening stations in New Guinea during World War II.

Here is a sneak peek at the people and culture surrounding our upcoming exhibit:



Carved wooden ancestor figure, E/1972/4/11.

The people of Papua New Guinea are mostly descendants of Melanesians, closely related to the islanders of Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. The island was one of the first landmasses to become populated by modern humans, about 50,000 years ago.

Hundreds of cultures live on the island of New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. These groups reside in small, remote rural villages- more than a third of them in the rugged highlands- and make their living by fishing, farming, hunting, and gathering. As a result of the villages’ isolation, many different languages are spoken on the island. With nearly one thousand distinct dialects spoken there, New Guinea possesses the greatest concentration of languages in the world.

The traditional Melanesian cultures are kept alive in elaborate rituals that accompany deaths, feasts, marriages, compensation ceremonies and initiation rites. Many of the artifacts in our collections reflect the diversity of the region, highlighting such ceremonial traditions as the dramatic fire dances practiced in the Highlands of West Papua and the ritualized veneration of ancestors among the Sepik River groups of New Guinea.



Art in New Guinea is as varied as its people. Carving, twining and weaving, produces many different types of art. Carved wooden sculptures, masks, canoes, and storyboards from New Guinea are valued around the globe in private collections, museums, and art markets.

The objects in Warrior Spirits, which include daggers carved from the bones of cassowary birds – a large flightless bird native to New Guinea and prized for its aggressive territorial nature—along with carved shields, war-clubs, spears and bows and arrows, were created and used by the indigenous peoples of present-day Papua New Guinea and West Papua, Indonesia.

Warrior Spirits: Indigenous Arts from New Guinea will be on display from Feb. 4 through May 13. Augmented with maps, graphics, and audio and video elements, this exhibit allows visitors a glimpse into the fascinating world of New Guinea. For more information, visit our website: www.snomnh.ou.edu.

Drawing the Mot Mot

Just as summer is beginning, October seems like a long, long way away, but I wanted to give anyone who’s interested a chance to follow this blog by nature artist Debby Kaspari.

Debby has done a lot of scientific illustrations for the museum, including the huge mural of a 40-foot elasmosaur for the Centennial Exhibition “Collecting Oklahoma” a couple of years ago. She is currently doing a whole series of drawings and paintings, as well as photography, video and audio recordings, for an exhibition that will go on view here at the museum in October. It will be called “Drawing the Mot Mot,” and will be a mix of scientific information about rainforest life and insight into the life of a field artist. Visitors will have the opportunity to see video of Debby doing her artwork in rainforests around South and Central America, learn about the plants, animals and ecosystems she is capturing on the page, and hear the sounds of various rainforest animals, especially birds.

The exhibit is still in development, and Debby is currently on a little research island in Panama, making drawings and collecting sound clips for the exhibit. Earlier in the year, she was in the Amazon. She blogs from her laptop about her experiences, and the blog is really rich and wonderful. She’s a fine writer, a wonderful artist, and peppers each entry wit photos, audio clips and video.

Visit and enjoy. It will whet your appetite for the exhibit come October!

http://drawingthemotmot.wordpress.com/