Hi. Thank you for seeking out the work of my father, the late, great O. Gail Poole.
I'm the inheritor of Dad's work (and many of his traits) - so a little about Dad, me, and the process of surviving his loss by bringing his art to the public.
I was raised on the smell of turpentine, accustomed to the grinding of gears, curse words and sudden u-turns along the backroads of the southwest, the chance to capture beauty too great to allow the interference of mere road signs. My relatives were farmers who taught me how to shuck peas and make cornbread; bedtime stories were read from Dad's tattered copies of Henri's "The Art Spirit" and "The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques," and I can spot a Blackjack oak, Burnt Sienna and a Blumenschein at 500 yards. I am keenly aware of how fortunate I am to have been raised by an artist of Dad's merit and dedication.
I've watched my father at countless art shows, more nervous than a kid alone at the prom. Dad didn't show his emotions - he painted them - and as an introvert he absolutely abhored public scrutiny. He was distraught when his early supporters began to abandon him after he broke from traditional Southwest Art and followed his own voice. I watched him, at my urging, take his book of slides to a prestigious gallery in New York, only to be told that while he was an excellent painter, he wasn't "contemporary enough." His humiliation in that moment broke my heart. After witnessing all of this, I knew I would someday be his champion. I just didn't know I'd have to do it so soon.
Dad's paintings represent not only his immortality; they represent every aspect of my life as well. He began painting around the time of my birth, and my personal memories wrap seamlessly around the works he created. A painting of a silver pitcher and magnolia stem, for example, stirs recollections of early visits to my grandmother, whose magnolia tree bore its first flowers in such a fine display that it seemed a wonder anything so white and fragrant could burst from the red clay of Oklahoma. A pastel of a Native American in a canoe is alive with the smell of rabbit skin glue, which I stirred in the back yard while Dad carefully built his model. A work of abject joy and exploration, "Connections," is itself connected to the summer before I began college - long, lavender evenings spent listening to Dave Brubeck, hearing Dad giggle at illustrations from The Far Side while hammering aluminum for the frame. And then there's EJ Branch, one of Dad's heroes from his childhood, who, with the rest of the Bradley Boys, came over the day Dad died to sing him on home.
The enormity of his loss will never leave me, but I am surrounded by the brush strokes in his paintings, and so I still hear his voice. These "guys," as I call them, have been the one constant in my life. They're in my care now, and together we'll work in Dad's stead to elevate him to the status of American master, and to carve out his legacy.
This is no small effort. It is brought forth by the alchemic combination of my own determination and the strength, hope and enthusiasm of many, many people who believe as I do, that Dad deserves recognition, nowhere more so than in Oklahoma, the inarticulably complex land where he chose to remain.
Dear friends have helped with inventory, conservation, database management and legal advice; heavyweight artists and distinguished arts leaders are coming out of the mists to bolster my enthusiasm and help guide my decisions; Dad's collectors support me through feedback, connections and the occasional dinner; thousands of people from around the world are discovering Dad's work every day via his Facebook page; and a very select few hold my hand from time to time when I get overwhelmed at the seemingly insurmountable task before me. In the background, I'm the queen of giving people another chance to ignore me...when I'm not on my hands and knees, carefully cleaning paintings with spit.
This effort hinges not on economics, but on determination...and fragile, fluttering human hope.
I invite you to feel that hope stir within you as you look at Dad's paintings, as you read about his journey. I ask that you tell people about this wonderful, as-yet-uncelebrated artist from Oklahoma who, despite all odds and insecurities, did miraculous things.
But more than that, I thank you, whoever you are, for spending your precious time here.