USAO art gallery digs deep into private collection to find Faces

This portrait of an African man hangs in the USAO art gallery as part of a new exhibition entitled Faces. The drawing was done by Derald Swineford, longtime OCW/OCLA/USAO art instructor, while he was stationed in North Africa during the Second World War. Faces, a collection of portraits drawn from the USAO permanent collection, is set to run until Feb. 4.

USAO art gallery digs deep into private collection to find Faces


The art gallery at the University of Science and Arts is opening the Spring 2011 trimester with a unique exhibition entitled Faces. The exhibit is drawn from the university’s private collection of art and showcases the rich legacy of history it represents. 

Gallery director Layne Thrift said that the inspiration for Faces came from wanting to show off the pieces entrusted to his care that few others see.

“As I was looking through the collection, I started thinking about the faces on the different pieces and how they represented a particular moment in time. It seemed like an important story to tell.”

While the entire exhibit is focused on faces, there are compelling stories nested within that go beyond the basic theme of the show. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is greeted by a painting by noted OCW artist Opal Thorpe that are grouped with a portrait of Thorpe herself done by one of her students.

In another cove, there is a portrait of Paul Emerson drawn by artist Leonard Good in 1928. Good, who would go on to head the art department at Drake University, drew the portrait of Emerson when they were both students at the University of Oklahoma. Emerson, who would go on to teach at the Oklahoma College for Women (OCW), is represented also in the show by an expressive portrait that is nearly abstract in its use of thick, jagged lines.

Another highlight of the show is an oil painting, three drawings and a sculpture by Derald Swineford. Swineford, who was an integral part of the university’s art department across four decades and two name-changes, drew the sensitive portraits of an African man while stationed in North Africa during World War II.

The Faces show is not without its mysteries. The most compelling is a portrait of Te Ata Fisher done in pastels. Undated and unsigned, the piece features Fisher staring directly at the viewer, a feature that has led Thrift and others to speculate on its origin.

“It’s entirely possible,” Thrift said, “that what we have here is a self-portrait. The way she is looking straight ahead is common for artists using a mirror to draw themselves. If she were sitting for a portrait, we would expect her to be looking off to one side or the other.”

Faces is on display now at the USAO Art Gallery on the first floor of Davis Hall and will run through Feb. 4. For more information, call 574-1374.