Monday, August 13, 2018

Oklahoma the trip, not the play.

An amazing massive sculpture greets you immediately as you enter the museum. 
I've loved road trips since I was a kid. Mom and dad were the kind of parents that allowed us to take in the sights all the way to a destination. All kinds of weird road side attractions and odd ball sorts of things. It's often why it took 14 hours to drive from Ottawa, Kansas to Kenedy, Texas. The only thing that I didn't enjoy back then was all the Mexican music dad would listen to, all, the, way, to, ANYWHERE.

To this day I love discovering everything from road stops and abandoned places, to museums and small businesses for the first time, along with the still oddball truck stops and restaurants along the way. I use an app on my phone to keep track of many places I plan on going back to because I didn't have the time or money to stop at that moment. So chances are you're going to find a big fat smile on my face if you see me out an about on the highway is the point of all this.

Unless I have a flat tire.
When I was kid, I grew up the first few years that I can remember well, in Italy. I know that there were stores and road stops, but not the menagerie sort of places here in the U.S.
I've been out to Oklahoma a few times, back when I was still active with my Civil War Reenactment group, and the drive can be a long one. For any of you that drive any length of distance and enjoy doing it, the drive can be a source of relaxation, maybe even self reflection.

This time allowed for me to be able to visit and see a great art show, the "Prix de West", which was at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
The homestead out in the middle of a lot of oil field area near Oklahoma City.
Staying in a horse trailer may seem odd to some people, and I know the first time I ever stayed in one, I was not looking forward to it. I don't remember what initial imagery I had floating in my head back in high school (when I first slept in one), but I am sure it included a lot more horse manure and hay.

To the contrary, they are incredibly comfortable, and many are well made and designed to bring the comforts of home into something that isn't a full blown RV, but isn't a tent either. There's a fair number of these among the members of my family, so they are pretty commonplace in my life anymore.
A look inside: [Left] A view from the back forwards towards the raised bed in the nose over the gooseneck. [Right - Top/Bottom] The nose of the horse trailer from outside, and from the inside looking towards the back.
Now personally, I am a sucker for Raindrop trailers, and that is still very much something I'd like to get for myself for future road ventures. But with the advent of affordable Air BnBs, decent ways to find hotels, and less travel for the forseeable future for me, a trailer like that is more of an unnecessary thing at this time.

Anyways, onto the museum.
The walkway up to the main entrance.
The Prix de West show did have a no photos allowed rule, that I did not realize until after I had gotten into the first main gallery. I only published this because it was more of an environment shot, with no close ups on the artwork, and I was impressed by the beautiful gallery set up.
There is artwork of all sorts from painting to sculpture, with a leaning to traditional mediums and subject matter.
So beyond the art show, the National Cowboy Museum is huge. Way bigger than I would have thought it was at first glance from the outside. The building has a dizzying  array of displays, hallways, and an almost overwhelming amount of things on display.
There's a section devoted to the history of hunting and the fur trade. Probably the most melancholy aspect for me personally, but still and essential and informative time from the history of the country.
If you've ever had the chance to go to the World War 1 museum in Kansas City, this one echoes it in presentation and educational richness. I know that I have more than a passing interest in much of what was on display because of the rodeo people in my family, as well as my parent's love of the Western genre in television and film.
An excellent area delving into the frontier life and times of the U.S. Cavalry, and other military aspects during this time, including the Native American scouts.
The pop culture aspects and items in homage to what seems like dozens of Cowboy entertainers from Wild Bill Hickok and Gene Autry to John Wayne (of whom there is a huge cast metal statue near the main entrance) and Tom Selleck. Even if the whole cowboys and indians thing isn't of huge interest, there is an undeniable treasure trove of information and wonderful items to appreciate, if only because of the pattern it all weaves itself into in the history of this country.
News clippings, saddles, props, fireams, artwork, and all sorts of movie, television, and show circuit memorabilia.  
As I mentioned, there is a LOT of space to explore and look at, including this fantastic reproduction of a town out of the old west. It's heavily stylized in construction, but evokes a very cool feeling walking in and about it.

The film nut in me could easily want to shoot an indie western flick there, so long as all the scenes took place at night. It reminded me of what some of the sets in old spaghetti westerns looked like when I watched them as a kid.
[Left] Western town reproduction. [Right] Gardens in the center.
I'd not thought about it, but it made sense once I saw it, that there would be a good sized section devoted to the history and evolution of American Rodeo.
I even found out that there are some aspects of Rodeo that are specifically male oriented, and a few that are female dominated.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that they did have art classes that were given at the museum, albeit costly ones, but therein is the fact that these aren't kid classes. And in reality, $120 for two and a half hours of constructive and focused portraiture study, isn't that bad of a price at all.

This was located over near the movie theatre they had that showed old films as they were intended to be seen.
This may be fun to try someday down the line.
Speaking of pricing, the art classes might be a bit high for your average museum attendee, but when the cafe opens before noon, for about three hours, you can get your grub on for a good price.

I had what I believe was called the Southwestern Burger, which was almost too much for me. I don't remember the price, but I believe it came in around $7.
They have options from salads, to burgers, to other basic cafe styled options, as well as a line of baked items including brownies, cookies, and pies.
And like any self respecting museum, they had a gift store where you could get the usual run of t-shirts, and other cowboy themed items. I lucked out and managed to add four new flattened penny designs to my collection!
I feel bad that in my time, I've straight out lied to people about having spare change, in the off chance that I'll run across a random penny art stamper. It's an addiction. I'm an incurable collector.
So a friend of mine had mentioned how incredibly awesome a place called Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies was. Now I take his opinion very seriously as we are both suffer from Wilford Brimley-ism, and if somewhere is worth the coveted "...yeah, I can lose a foot over this" verbal award, you KNOW it's good. He had suggested Sugar Fire BBQ prior to this. That was amazing.
I have come to the mountain, and the sermon is served daily.
This place was off the charts good. Yeah, it's a hole in the wall on a corner of a street that has traffic all around, but in true Anthony Bourdain mentality, the food is probably excellent if it's more important than fixing the "OPEN" light sign.

I learned this years ago in New Orleans, and it's yet to fail me.
[Left] See that? That is the Pizza Fried Pie. The sampling included a lot more, but that was my obsession. [Right] See that sign? It does no good to throw your money at your computer screen, but I found out they will MAIL you frozen fried pies.

So the final thoughts on all of this. Oklahoma isn't the most fun to travel through, especially if you have to do it for work or you live there I imagine. Most of my friends from my re-enactment days who live there, actually prefer Idaho (yeah I don't get it either). But, if you are ever around there via family trip or business, I hope I've given you some extra destination options and that you've enjoyed my overview of these two places.

Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies was great, but there wasn't a lot more around it that would really make it more than a definite stop on perhaps a longer road trip out that way for any of you.

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, especially the Prix de West was just amazing, and it's fascinating to have seen how many former fantasy and commercial illustrators were now plying their skills as gallery painters doing Western imagery. On a side note, the show would tag originals and reproductions of sculptures with colored tags. The prices for pieces were visible, so as I walked and took in the show, I added up the running total of sales. I managed to remember to do this for about 70% of the artwork, and tallied up 1.7 million in sales. Mind you, only about half of the works I tallied had sold.

Who says that sales of original hand made art is dead? No one that came to this show that's for sure.

Until next time, support your local artists, be kind to your fellow beings, and always take the path less traveled!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist

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