OU museum opens pottery exhibition
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art opened a new exhibition that celebrates Oklahoma culture through pottery.
The Oklahoma Clay: Frankoma Pottery exhibit is a collection of ceramics done predominantly by John Frank and features pieces by several of his students or colleagues.
Melodie Lettkeman, The Oklahoma Daily
AT A GLANCE
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday,
1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 555 Elm Ave.
“This exhibit is an important part of the cultural history of Oklahoma,” said Mark White, Eugene B. Adkins curator and chief curator at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.
John Frank grew up in Chicago in a family of modest means, said Jane Aebersold, curator of ceramics at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. His mother had a vision of him going to college even though they did not have a lot of money, Aebersold said.
When Frank did make it to the Chicago Art Institute, he learned his love for ceramics from his prestigious professor Myrtle Meritt French, Aebersold said. She taught everything about ceramics from throwing to making glazes, she said.
After studying under French, Frank went to work for Oscar Jacobson, then director of OU’s School of Art, in 1927, Aebersold said. Jacobson was the founding director of the ceramics program at OU, Aebersold said. She said that Jacobson was looking for someone to open a ceramics department and French recommended Frank who then taught at the university for eight years.
In 1928 Frank began working with the Oklahoma Geological Survey in order to find clay to use for his ceramics, Aebersold said. She said that they happened upon a creamy, white clay near Ada, Okla., which Frank used in his personal studio, as well as at OU until 1954.
After 1954, the Ada clay was running out so when Frank moved to Sapulpa, Okla., he found red clay near there and began to work with that instead, Aebersold said.
During his time at OU, Frank opened a studio called Frank Pottery, later named Frankoma Pottery in 1934, Aebersold said.
What Frank really wanted to do with Frankoma was provide decorative tableware such as saucers, cups, bowl serving dishes and pitchers that were affordable and fashionable, Aebersold said.
The two most elaborate sculpture sets that are on display in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art are two of these tableware sets designed by Frank, she said.
The first is called “Wagon Wheel Place Setting,” and is made out of both Ada and Sapulpa clay with a prairie green glaze. This place setting was made in 1948 and each piece has some sort of wagon wheel or wagon spoke that makes the entire set cohesive, Aebersold said.
“This is probably the most iconic piece in the collection,” she said.
The second place setting is called “Mayan Aztec Place Setting.” This place setting also uses both clays but is glazed in desert gold. There are little Aztec or Mayan symbols around the outer edges of the plates and saucers as well as on the cups and pitcher, Aebersold said.
The other artists featured in the Frankoma Exhibit were either students or colleagues of Frank’s here at OU or in Oklahoma, she said.
Joe Taylor, a former sculpture professor, was a good friend of Frank and was asked to be a part of Frankoma, but declined the offer, Aebersold said. Taylor did, however, give art to Frank to contribute to Frankoma and those pieces are on display, she said.
“[This collection] deserves some attention because of how it shaped people’s lives by being present in Oklahoma,” White said. He said that because the Frankoma Pottery was affordable that many people had the tableware and other items in their homes through the 1950s and 1970s.
“Most people over the age of 45-50 that are from Oklahoma would have probably had some Frankoma Pottery in their home,” White said.
White said this is also a celebration of OU because Frank started his career here and continued to refer back to OU even in the years after he left.
The Fred Jones Museum of Art started preparing this exhibit in April of 2010, Aebersold said.
“It is amazing that it opened April of this year,” Aebersold said. “It has been a real pleasure to research and put together,” Aebersold said.