Off the Wall: James and the Giant Art

Welcome to Off the Wall. We’ve skimmed the news around the museum, and want to share the highlights with you.

Written while trying to come up with something that rhymes with ‘peach’ and also goes with the exhibition. If you think of something, call me. I’m not joking.


“My art is a series of connecting points. My sculptures are like lines in space, like drawings in space.” – James Surls



So I know what you’re thinking, you art-blog-reading reader you: didn’t the FJJMA just open an amazingly awesome exhibition? Like just a couple weeks ago? You are not wrong. It’s a little stressful, and museum staff might be going a little crazy…but overall, we are incredibly excited that we have so many amazing things happening at the museum this semester. This exhibition features work by sculptor James Surls. The unique thing about this particular show is that Surls will actually be here in person for a week!


Originally a Texas native, he now has a studio in Colorado. He’s been doing this for about forty years, so, yeah…he knows what he’s doing. He draws inspiration from nature–flowers, the human body, rock formations. This isn’t always obvious when you look at his work, but if you look a little closer you’ll start to see petals, leaves, and eyes peering out at you from the sculptures. Don’t let the flowers fool you, Surls creates his works from wood, steel, and bronze, making him one of the manliest artists ever.


Have you ever seen an artist’s work and thought, “Gee Wally, I sure wish I could see him do that in person!” Well, this is your opportunity. Surls will be in the museum’s Sandy Bell Gallery on Tues. Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (or until he finishes). He’s going to take a break somewhere in there for lunch, so if you show up and he’s not there, just wait a couple minutes! It’s free to see, and you can drop in any time during those hours to watch him at work. It’s like an aquarium, except for talent. And it smells better here. And there’s less water. (It’s not really anything like an aquarium.)


Yes! Join us Tue. Oct. 6 at 12:30 p.m. for a gallery talk presented by OU art professor Robert Bailey. He’ll lead a walking tour through the exhibition, and will discuss selected works. In December, college students can join us for a Surls-centric College Night. Dec. 10 from 7-9 p.m. in the museum classroom. See a special documentary about Surls that the museum produced, and create your own artwork! This program is free and open to all college students or recent graduates.


The Jerome M. Westheimer, Sr. & Wanda Otey Westheimer Distinguished Visiting Artist Chair: James Surls exhibition will open October 2, 2015 and will run through January 3, 2016. It’s free.



Follow me. I rarely know where I’m going, but you NEED to be following us on twitter @fjjma. Why? Remember our Enter the Matrix Tweet Up? We’re doing another one on Oct. 2 at 2 p.m.! The topic? James Surls, of course! Follow us and explore #OUSurls to see tweets from the other accounts involved in the Tweet Up! Have questions for the artist? Tweet at us and use #AskSurls before next Friday. We will share your questions with Surls! AND, if you’re super social-media savvy and have a Periscope account, you can actually watch the tour live, because the account ‘UofOklahoma’ will be hosting a Periscope tour! I’ve used so many exclamation points now that I feel like I’m going to have to transition into all caps in order to continue the excitement build.


Redshift: Not the newest member of the Avengers. This is the phenomenon used to determine the approximate age of the universe, and its general size. It occurs when a light source moves away from the place where you’re watching that light source, resulting in longer wavelengths and a shift toward the red portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Electromagnetic spectrum: Not in the same fleet as the Starship Enterprise (probably). This is the range of frequencies that electromagnetic radiation extends over. As galaxies move away from the Earth (as the universe expands), the light from those galaxies is redshifted (see above). Seemingly infinitesimal shifts in the spectrum can provide valuable information about the extent of the cosmos.

Infinitesimal: Not synonymous with ‘infinite.’ It’s actually the opposite of that, and means extremely tiny and miniscule.

What?? : Oh sorry I guess you’re probably wondering what in the world I’m talking about. Allow me to share with you a short blurb by our museum director, Mark White:

“When I visited with James Surls in July, he marveled at how much humanity might learn by passing light through a prism and measuring the results, a seemingly simple act.

For Surls, nothing we observe is simple, mundane, or literal. Everything in nature has the possibility to signify something more profound. A flower may be beautiful, but it may also express mathematical truths in the logarithmic spiral of its petals or seed distribution.

Surls’s sculpture relies on commonplace forms such as flowers, vessels, houses, and the human body, but he places those forms in a context unusual or unfamiliar.

Although Surls wants his viewers to appreciate the forms and materials of his sculpture–that is to say, what is visible–he also alludes to that which may not be immediately apparent, not unlike the phenomenon of redshift.”

Smart people, am I right? This leads us to:

Logarithmic spiral: A spiral that curves in such a way that the angle that’s formed between the tangent and the radius vector is the same at all points of the spiral.

Radius vector: A line of no specific length that’s drawn from a fixed point, to a curve.

Tangent: A straight line or plane that touches a curve (or curved surface) at a point, but that if extended, does not cross it at that point. Alternate definition of tangent: what I’m getting off on. My point: Come see the art, it’s going to be amazing.


Happy Birthday!

artists born several years ago this week:

9/21 Julio Gonzalez, Lodovico Cigoli, Pavel Tchelitchew | 9/22 Alma Thomas, Charles Keeping, Joseph Duplessis | 9/23 Frantisek Kupka, Louis Nevelson, Matthew Pratt, Paul Delvaux, Suzanne Valadon, Tony Smith | 9/24 Antoine-Louis Barye | 9/25 Francesco Borromini, Mark Rothko, Robert Brackman | 9/26 Lewis Hine, Theodore Gericault | 9/27 George Cruikshank, T.C. Cannon


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