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WESTERN ITALIANO: OK artist O. Gail Poole’s western art gets fistful of accolades in Italy

Courtesy of Nicole Poole
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AREZZO, Italy – Nicole Poole only needs three words to describe her father, the late legendary Oklahoma artist O. Gail Poole: “Hellbent for leather.”

“Dad mastered any style he tried,” Poole said. “He was never satisfied with just one, so he kept searching for his voice and kept trying new things. He was really well-known as a Western artist and he got kind of dissatisfied with it, he thought “Well, I’m bored with cowboys and Indians and wolves and stuff…,’ so he moved on to classical stuff. Then he pivoted again, doing these really fantastical scenes and, at the time, Penn Square Bank was failing, and people got confused, telling him to just go back to painting pretty pictures. He lost his public, but he kept painting.”

And while this tendency to do his own thing might have lost him a fanbase in the United States, a country where Poole admits they “don’t know where to put imaginative artists,” he has now found resurgence in not only his popularity but in his respect as an artist in Italy of all places. When Poole recounts their reaction however, it all makes as much sense as a classic spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood.

“For them, we (America) are still full of potential,” Poole said. “For them, we’re still the new, wild undiscovered country. It’s so refreshing to see us through their eyes; they see big sky and potential, and wild things around every corner…They really celebrate that sense of artistic freedom and experimentation because in the world of figurative art, there is none. They responded to Dad’s work in a way that was so intellectual, so full of hope, so full of wonder.”

O. Gail Poole: Spaghetti Western, a collection of Poole’s depictions of Western icons, is part of the Norman Arts Council’s Cultural Connections project, a series of exhibitions bringing international artists to Oklahoma and sending Norman artists around the world to share the state’s culture. It is now showing in CEUCA, a new exhibit space in an ancient Roman foundry along with works by Douglas Shaw Elder and Tim Stark, in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma’s campus in Arezzo, Italy, which will be dedicated on June 27.

Calling the Italian’s view of Poole work as “reinvigorating,” Poole is also planning an upcoming exhibit of her father’s work—a solo show entitled Maverick—in Paris, France within the next few months. As someone who saw her father’s rep fall in the States, she’s committed herself to rebuilding the name O. Gail Poole in the art world and, so far, she’s doing a good job, one she believes would cause her dad to make a contented grunt.

“The art business doesn’t know what to do with maverick artists before history embraces them and it’s kind of my job to make sure that happens, that people know what he’s done,” Poole said. “His voice stayed in the dark for too damn long that if I can expose it to the world, it’s an opportunity I’m determined to take, or make, really. I’m not a patient person, I don’t want to wait for history to discover him. Dad was a maverick, so I gotta be a maverick. It’s a celebration of a guy who never colored within the lines.”

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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