Get me within one hundred miles of Tulsa, OK and I get the shakes: an irresistible urge to visit the Gilcrease Museum. I exaggerate not; just ask my family and any one of my million friends. The Gilcrease is one of the finest western art museums in America, featuring Thomas Moran, Charles Russell, Frederick Remington, and others. Besides it’s free.
God Sightings in the Gilcrease Museum
I especially appreciate Remington because even I understand his art. Okay, I can’t honestly claim to understand it, but I like it. His art depicts stories I can imagine myself in. For example, when standing in front of his sculpture of four cowboys firing their pistols, riding on wild-eyed ponies “Coming through the Rye,” I find myself flinching, trying to duck out of the way of the thundering hooves. I also realize Remington is inspiring me to tell my own story.
I’m not the only one. Larry McMurtry also borrowed inspiration from Remington in the Gilcrease. Remington’s stop-action painting titled “Stampede” seems to show up in McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize winning western Lonesome Dove. “Stampede” pictures a drenched cowboy in leather chaps racing his terrified horse alongside a panicked cattle herd. Rain streaks the gray sky as lightning cracks behind them like a whip in the hand of God. In Lonesome Dove Newt and the gang are chased across the prairie in a beautifully similar fashion.
I also find the Gilcrease irresistible because it has inspired in me a desire to know the artists themselves. I am drawn into Remington’s stories in art but also into Remington’s own story. I devoured a biography on him, finding in those pages a man gloriously obsessed with authenticity in every detail. Remington is credited with changing how artists painted horses and other animals because he studied them in motion and accurately depicted them in art. He even burned a pile of his own art in his back yard that did not measure up to his exacting standards. Each time I visit the Gilcrease, I find myself wanting to know more about this gifted, creative, intelligent man who could tell such enticing stories through color and clay.
An ancient poet once experienced a similar draw to another Artist:
“For you, Lord, have made me glad through your work;
I will triumph in the works of your hands.
O Lord, how great are your works!
Your thoughts are very deep.”
At the Gilcrease, I too began to glimpse God’s picture, a deeper portrait of life that inspired me to live my story in authenticity. Now when standing in awe in a golden grove of aspen or among a snowflake-diverse group of people, I am drawn into a Story bigger than myself. I dream; I listen; I am inspired. I turn again and again to that strange biography about this Creative Genius who could work such wonder with color and clay.
The Gilcrease reminds me that all of life is an art gallery in which God, the ultimate Artist, draws us into the Story that inspires all others. So, I deeply desire to live out the authentic story painted for me by the Artist of Life. And maybe, like seeing Remington’s masterful “Stampede” in McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, by God’s grace, someone may glimpse God’s story in mine.
That’s what God Sightings are all about: seeing the Artist in the art. God may not always speak through a burning bush, passionate prophet, or whispering wind. But God is not silent. Our task is to stand in the gallery and see and hear and know the Creator of our souls: to see God.
I hope these words, my meager art, such as they are, help.