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Enoch Kelly Haney retrospective “Touching the Past” opens at Gaylord-Pickens Museum

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

On April 26, the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum will open the exhibit honoring Enoch Kelly Haney, “Touching the Past”.

In keeping with the gallery’s mission to showcase Oklahoma artists, the exhibit will be a retrospective of internationally recognized painter and sculptor’s 40-year career.

An opening reception will be held Thursday, April. 26 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Museum, located at NW 13 St. & Shartel Ave, in Oklahoma City. The reception is free to the public made possible by the Muscogee-Creek Nation.

When asked how he felt about having a 40-year retrospective, Haney said, “It’s an honor to exhibit at such a prestigious museum. “But I’m particularly appreciative to the many museums and private collectors of my work who allowed me to show their personal Haney art collections. “I’m truly amazed and surprised at the number of paintings that I’ve created.”

Haney said he has been through several creative stages during his life mentioning traditional Indian art, a blue stage, and even a Mondrian stage, but admits he has been in an experimental stage all along the way. He describes his body of work as “contemporary abstract’.

He reflected that most of the art he has created was based on who he was at the time or who he currently is.

Sculptures are Haney’s focus now stating that he hasn’t painted in 10 years. “The first sculpture I did was when I was six years old,” he said. “Made from the red clay in front of our house.”

Haney’s newest release is a bronze relief sculpture called ‘Unconquerable Spirit,’ which depicts the legendary tale of Seminole resistance leader Osceola plunging a knife through a proposed treaty with the United States government.

After decades of paintings and his most recently commissioned sculptures, Kelly has an impressive art career spanning over 40 years. In addition to Kelly’s extraordinary artwork, he has also been a successful politician.

A full blood Seminole-Creek Indian, Haney comes from humble beginnings in rural Seminole County, Haney became the first full blood American Indian to serve in the Oklahoma Legislature, first as a State Representative from 1980 to 1986, then serving in the State Senate from 1986 to 2002.

The striking Haney painting, “Standing Guard” depicts a man, half Indian warrior and half Indian soldier. “Many Native Americans go to war and when they come home and they’re not recognized, but they still carry their traditions,” said Haney. “You have to respect those young men and women for their willingness to lay down their lives to do what they believe is right.”

“In this painting, on one side of his body is the hand grenade, which is the symbol of death. On the other side you see those owl feathers that he is wearing, which is also a symbol of death. I made those kinds of comparisons throughout my paintings, because it’s a real way of looking at things. It’s my way,” Haney added.

When Haney was only two years old, his mother noticed his artistic ability. He went on to professionally train at Bacone College in Muskogee and graduated from Oklahoma City University with a degree in Fine Arts. His art has been exhibited throughout the United States, England, Austria and Asia. Haney has won many awards including the title of Master Artist of the Five Civilized Tribes.

In addition to decades of success, Haney became the highly esteemed creator of the 22-foot, bronze sculpture entitled, The Guardian, chosen to top the Oklahoma State Capitol Dome.

Haney has created many commissioned sculptures including the Chickasaw Warrior at the Chickasaw Nation Headquarters in Ada, the Standing His Ground sculpture at Seminole State College in Seminole and 7-foot replicas of The Guardian at various businesses and college campuses through the state of Oklahoma. Haney also created roundels for the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center, the State House of Representatives and the State Senate Chambers at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Haney currently resides in Norman, Oklahoma and works, in his home, full-time as a sculpture.

Touching the Past will be on display April 26 through July 28 at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum and is sponsored by the Muscogee-Creek Nation.

Through high-tech, interactive exhibits, the Gaylord-Pickens Museum allow visitors to experience Oklahoma’s story through its people. Video-driven displays and computer touch screens provide guests a unique look into the lives of famous and everyday Oklahomans who have affected our state, country and world.

For more information about the Enoch Kelly Haney “Touching the Past” exhibit visit or call 405.235.4458. Those interested in attending the Opening Reception may RSVP to Corie Baker at 405.523.3206.

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