OGP Collection Update, Summer 2014

Yeesh. Finally, an update. I'm "busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest," as Dad would say. Momentum is rolling, and, dammit, I will create a legacy for Dad. The big news is that the cataloguing process for the paintings is complete! (The pastels, charcoals, sketchbooks and sculptures are another story...) oh damn. 

Without the help of Julie & Farrel Droke, Mark & Becky Wilson, Cathy & Ron Crabtree, Susan & Keith Frank, JJ Bradford, Brent Swift, Terri Jordan and Skip Hill, this wouldn't have happened until 2016.

In the beginning...
In the beginning...

Cataloguing artwork is a tedious process. Measuring each piece, describing the medium, image, condition, provenance, etc., taking photos, entering the information into the database...it's daunting, but I suppose it's like eating an elephant. (Or a tree, if you're a vegetarian.) But we're finished with phase 1, and that's a huge milestone.

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Despite the glee of this, I woke up in the middle of the night last month in a cold sweat. "Oh sh%t. What now?!" I thought. Cataloguing was my biggest goal, and to be faced with its completion was spooky, to say the least. I didn't have a plan of how to get from cataloguing to taking Poole worldwide.

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I began with creating a Facebook page, which you should absolutely check out. You'll get a "Poole a Day" in your newsfeed. Over 1500 people have already signed on, and it's just thrilling to watch people discover Dad's work.

I've also begun working with the intrepid, beautiful and "wicked smaht" Debby Williams, one of the heaviest heavy hitters in the world of Oklahoma arts. She was a dear friend of Dad's, and I've known her for over 20 years - luckily she's accustomed to the Poole idiosyncrasies!

We've got plans and schemes to bring Poole to the widest possible audience, including a huge show and sale, and stuff is really starting to roll.  I'll shout it from the rooftops once we get a few more things nailed down.

Next: President of the University of Oklahoma, David L. Boren, has graciously accepted Dad's painting "Morning Meeting," and further, upon his retirement, he will donate it to the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art as part of their permanent collection.

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President Boren is one of the most intelligent and forward-thinking men I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and it is our great fortune that he continues to lead.

I found several pieces of correspondence between Dad and President Boren. Dad respected him greatly for his efforts in steering our University, our state, and our nation. It's a great honor for me and our family to know that Dad's work will continue on at the University of Oklahoma.

One of these days, I swear I will create and endow The O. Gail Poole Scholarship scholarship at OU. I want artists from small towns across the world to be able to study art, in Dad's name. From Slapout, Oklahoma to Bauchi, Nigeria...somehow, some way, I will make this happen.

Finally: Please consider a couple of clicks and a couple of bucks to help fund the O. Gail Poole Memorial Travel Fund. I am determined to keep this going, and to spread it to a statewide level. Give an opportunity to those far flung "Van Gotebo" artists to experience this wide blue world.

Anyhoo. That's the news from in the trenches, and swinging for the fences.

Thanks so very much for reading. All the best,

Nicole

I Got the Horse Right Here...

I realize my posts have been quite reflective of late, so this is short, sweet, and a very exlclusive way for you to connect with the guy I knew as Dad. Since I was a baby, Dad sang to me the opening lines of "Fugue for Tinhorns," from Guys and Dolls. He sang "can do, can do" each time either of us tried to do something challenging...

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This is a voicemail Dad left for me a few years ago when I was studying at the Art Students' League.  Hearing his voice is so damned soothing to me, and listening to him ramble a little about travel and recollection while cleaning his pistol is hysterical.

After you listen to this, please note that we found about 26 pounds of ammunition around the house after he passed away. Can do, can do...

Art, travel, love and guns. Hee.

Over and out for now. Thanks so much for following and for getting to know my amazing Dad.

Nicole

Behind the Mask

"It must have been hard for you, to be this swirly, sensitive, Dionysic creative thing...stuffed into a John Wayne suit."

I said this to Dad at the end of March as he rested in his favorite old recliner; he was beginning to "head for the barn," and was sleeping constantly, but preferred to be in the living room rather than in his bed so that he could feel like part of the action.  I often rubbed his temples to soothe him, and our discussions during these periods will always stay with me.

In response to my musing, Dad grunted and grinned, mustering his strength to say, slowly, "honey, you have no idea."

This came to me today, fitting, as it marks the 4 month anniversary of Dad's one-way trip to Happy Mountain.  Masks were a recurring theme in Dad's work, and I've been doing a lot of thinking as to why.

Joseph Campbell wrote: “To become—in Jung’s terms—individuated, to live as a released individual, one has to know how and when to put on and to put off the masks of one’s various life roles."

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Dad was born in Marlow, Oklahoma and raised in Bradley, Oklahoma, both small farming communities. With his own father out of the picture, Dad's views of what a man should be were fomented by the people around him. They worked hard, went to church, knew how to tell a good joke, protected their families and served their country. Life was hard, but simple by today's modern standards.  The community supported each other, and your roots were known by nearly everybody. Honesty, humility and a willingness to help others defined "a good man," the highest compliment. Only a few went on to college, and most stayed in the area all of their lives.

This is still a way of life in Oklahoma, and can produce some of the finest people you'll ever know.

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During the late 1940's, Dad stumbled on an art "contest" on the back of a matchbook, advertised by the Art Instruction Schools. He sent in his submission and was accepted.

My Grandmother, a schoolteacher in a one-room school house, somehow scraped together around $300 to enroll him in the course, and he dedicated all of his free time to mastering the techniques sent to him.

A few years later, Dad went to the University of Oklahoma for a degree in art, because, in his words, he had "bailed enough hay." He graduated in 1957, entering the wide and fast world of advertising and suits and society. He moved to Virginia, briefly, to work in advertising, but homesickness got the better of him.

In Oklahoma, Dad was a powerhouse, creating one the state's leading advertising agency at the time, Poole-Hobbes, Inc.  He also created the Oklahoma Art Directors' Guild, and  some of the finest artists in the nation came to his home.  Dad hosted workshops with Fritz Scholder, and we have personal work given to him by Mark English and Bernie Fuchs. More importantly, Dad began to see artists living their lives through their art, and the allure was too great for him to ignore.

When I was around 4 years old, Dad got rid of the suit and crewcut, grew a beard, and bought OJ, his beloved orange Volkswagen camper. He began to study with R.V. "Dick" Goetz, a great painter, instructor and one of Dad's lifelong friends, and he began to live the life of an artist.

This departure was so far from his origins - where his closest friends were still on the farm, struggling with the demands of the land, Dad had an orange VW camper, a turquoise ring and flip flops. He painted naked ladies, went to crazy parties and argued incessantly about reforming politics and religion.

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Dad struggled constantly with the man he had been raised to be and the man he was becoming. I think that struggle is what made him truly unique, but it also haunted him.  He couldn't embrace the "uppity" world of fine art, and yet he couldn't be satisfied with small town life. So he painted, and painted...and painted.

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The O. Gail Poole Collection is Dad's diary of his most intimate thoughts, joys and struggles.  I hope to be able to find a place to host a retrospective, as it's extremely powerful to view the images that fueled one man's life.  Dad's work goes beyond the personal to represent, in a way, the masks with which we all struggle.

Dad was in the final stages of his cancer on Saturday, April 13.  Thanks to his friends, a Comanche elder came that morning to lead the most moving ceremony I have ever witnessed.

The day before, recognizing the signs, I called people from far and wide to come squeeze his hand, and they came. FedEx packages and letters had come pouring in from artists and admirers from the world over, and visits from some of the best people I'll ever know drowned the house in scotch and laughter. I read all of the letters and e-mails to Dad as I held his hand, and I played one of his personally curated CDs on my laptop next to his bed. (Damndest mix of Abba, Renee Fleming, Jesus Christ Superstar!, the Kings Singers, Dave Brubeck, Waylon & Willie, John Lennon and Charlie Poole, but I swear to you he recognized and responded to each one.)

On that day, each chapter of Dad's life was represented by at least one person, if not several, all knowing a side of him that only they could know. I wonder what it must have been like for him, for all of his masks to collide and mingle in such a real way.

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, "The Bradley Boys," the guys he had gone through grade school with, all came to visit Dad. They told stories and EJ, his high school hero and subject of many paintings and sketches, played guitar and sang to him.

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At exactly the hour of evening when the sun painted its own masterpiece of uncapturable light, Dad became, as Campbell so eloquently put it, "a released individual," and all of the masks slid away.