The event showcased the museum’s newest gallery on Norman Rockwell’s work, gave cocktail demonstrations and brought Tulsans of all ages together.
Gilcrease Museum every so often hosts “After Dark” events, a chance for the Tulsa community to visit the museum for free, generally with some interactive component and a new exhibit. This past week featured the museum’s new Norman Rockwell exhibit, which will be shown until June.
The night offered a chance to look at the newest gallery, a “classic cocktail” making demonstration and some food/wine opportunities. Even with the heavy rain, the museum was packed with people, ranging in age from kids to older adults. Because of the number, tours of the gallery were staggered by time.
The gallery was tucked into the back of the museum and was a wonderful tour through the life of America’s most well-known and influential recent artists. The Norman Rockwell Museum and curator Ron Schick organized the gallery. Through photos Rockwell used as inspiration and the final product, the gallery sheds light on Rockwell’s process of creating a “Saturday Evening Post” cover and other artwork. It also details Rockwell’s life and those he worked with.
Learning about Rockwell’s process was fascinating. He relied heavily on live models and required them to remain still while he drew or painted. He then referenced photographs, which required hundreds of photos over the years. Rockwell would then combine parts of each photograph for the final product, taking an expression from one and a pose from another. Using photographs allowed him to get every detail of a scene or person, so that his paintings look extremely realistic. In fact, as signage revealed, sometimes editors didn’t believe his paintings were based on real people, as they were so full of expression, to which Rockwell would pull out his photo inspiration.
The gallery collected many of Rockwell’s art, some well-known, some not. Generally, with each cover or large piece came one or more of the photos Rockwell used as models, along with commentary by Rockwell or others on the piece. Some also showed the same cover and larger painting together, which allowed for a better examination of detail. Studying a cover revealed hidden details, and each cover told a succinct story that was understandable even without a sign. Some were heartwarming, some funny, some sad.
The most moving pieces came after Rockwell moved on from the “Saturday Evening Post.” Two were social commentary. “The Problem We All Live With” showed a black girl being escorted to school by several policemen, with racial epithets and fruit thrown at her, and “New Kids in the Neighborhood (Negro in the Suburbs)” depicted black children in a neighborhood being stared at by white children, but their baseball gear implies they will soon be friends. Such images would’ve been unheard of while at the “Post,” which even forced Rockwell to remove any black person not in a service job.
At the end of the gallery was a spot for people to put themselves into a “Post” cover or a Rockwell painting, a cute end to the gallery.
After the gallery, the Gilcrease also offered short lessons on cocktails. These were given by someone from the Vault, a downtown bar and eatery. The audience learned how to create a whiskey sour, a classic martini and a few other drinks in short demonstrations that were easy to follow. Watching the bartender make a drink was a comfortable end to a great event.