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A look back at the controversies surrounding Oklahoma last decade of visual arts



Revisiting some of their most stirring, controversial and discussion-provoking moments, a handful of metro arts organizations look back at the exhibits and efforts that incited dialogue and helped define a decade on display.

Oklahoma Arts Council
State Capitol Dome, 2002
An art installation on a grand scale, the addition of a dome atop the State Capitol in 2002 required convincing, politically; funding, publicly; and a massive effort, structurally. Ann Dee Lee, public information director for the Oklahoma Arts Council, said her organization struggled with World War I-era budget and building constraints that left the Capitol without a proper foundation, and had to convince critics that adding a dome would serve as a symbol of public government. Formally dedicated on Statehood Day, Nov. 16 of that year, the dome was crowned with Enoch Kelly Haney's "The Guardian" sculpture, which Lee said pays tribute to the state's American Indian heritage. "Now most Oklahomans can't imagine the Capitol without it," she said. "It brings home the notion that all Oklahomans have a right to access the arts and their cultural heritage embodied in the works of art at our state Capitol."

City Arts Center
"Heroes and Outlaws: 100 Oklahomans by 100 Oklahomans," 2006-2007
An exhibit of portraits organized to coincide with the state's centennial celebration, "Heroes and Outlaws" was met with both praise and protest, said artistic director Clint Stone. The exhibit featured many recognizable faces that served as "entry points," making it among the center's highest-attended shows, but included often-controversial subjects. "We had to answer questions on a pretty regular basis, especially from those who thought we were romanticizing Oklahomans that were notorious and violent," Stone said. "There was tension, which caused discussion and almost everything that ultimately came out of it was positive."

Oklahoma City Museum of Art
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch," 2002
When audiences packed the museum in May 2002, most didn't attend to see the film "? they came to witness its introduction by Robert Redford, said OKCMOA communications manager Leslie Spears. Some attendees "? most notably its most noble, including Gov. Frank Keating and Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin "? didn't realize they were in store for a transgendered rock opera centering around an East German "girlyboy" who seduces a U.S. soldier. "I think they just realized, 'I came to see Robert. I didn't sign up for this,'" Spears said, adding Keating and Fallin were among those who "politely excused themselves."

[Artspace] at Untitled
"Man the Creator," 2003
Questioning his Catholic upbringing, artist Ron Jackson assembled icons, symbols, sets and costumes for an exhibit that challenged religion and sparked a stirring discussion, said Untitled development coordinator Autumn Daves. The show brought visitors from around the stage, she said, and prompted a panel discussion with a priest, a rabbi and a Baptist minister. "Many visitors were horrified by the exhibit before they realized it was more a statement about social issues rather than religion," said Untitled founder Laura Warriner. "?Joe Wertz


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