OKLAHOMA CITY — Is it possible to tell a whole story with a single image? Most of us need a whole series of pictures and a lot of words to convey a single message, but not Woody Crumbo. Flute Dancer, Eagle Dancer, Feather Dancer; each of these silk screens tells its own intricate tale. His daughter Minisa Crumbo-Halsey grew up surrounded by them. “He would have felt that stories are what keep us alive,” she says. “And the opportunity to come into a state facility like this that reaches so many people in beautiful ways would have been a great opportunity for him.”
Born in Lexington, OK to Citizen Pottowatami parents in 1912, orphaned at a young age, he began a lifelong journey that exposed him to dozens of Native American cultures. He started drawing early on. He danced PowPows to pay for art school. All the while, says curator Tara Damron, he hoped to tell the stories he heard to the world outside his own. “He pioneered silk screening and print making,” she explains. “What he wanted to do was to expose American students, non-Indians, the world, to Native American culture.”
The Oklahoma History Center brought together a whole series of Crumbo silk screens and put them on display. Family and friends came together to talk about their old friend and to remember the remarkable number of works he created. Minisa says, “In an effort to give affordable art to the population that couldn’t afford an original piece of work.”
No Woody Crumbo celebration woiuld be complete without some dancing. A group of Kiowa and Comanche women performed a scalp dance and a victory dance. Woody Crumbo himself stepped into the afterlife more than 20 years ago but his stories remain in thousands of images scattered around the world. He was a storyteller who didn’t need a camera, or words, just an idea and a little paint.The Oklahoma History Center is planning a much larger retrospective of Crumbo’s art scheduled to open in June.