Eugene Bavinger

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Oklahoma Artist Artist Eugene Bavinger.
"Final Attraction" by Oklahoma Artist Artist Eugene Bavinger. This painting is on exhibit at Pickens Learning Commons

Eugene Bavinger's expressive interest in form led him to become one of Oklahoma's most experimental and technically proficient artists. He believed in the importance of experimentation and creating work that could be recognized for its individuality. As he worked to advance the genre of abstract illusionism, he pioneered a painting process (known as “glass” paintings) in which he first applied acrylic medium and layers of paint to glass before setting a canvas to the painted surface. After the paint had dried, he would meticulously remove the painted canvas from the glass surface.

As a result, the painting would have a smooth and highly reflective surface. Within the painting itself, Bavinger created compositions of light and color with forms that created the illusion of depth.

Biography of Eugene Allen BAVINGER (1919-1986)

Birth place: Sapulpa, OK

Death place: Norman, OK

Addresses: Norman, OK

Profession: Painter, educator

Studied: Univ. Okla., BFA, 1946; Inst. Allende, Mex., MFA, 1961

Exhibited: SAM, 1949; Fred Jones Jr. Mus. of Art, Univ. of Okla., Norman, 1949 (solo), 1986 (retrospective); American Painting Today, MMA, 1950-51; Smith College Mus. of Art, Northhampton, MA, 1953 (solo); Grand Rapids Art Gallery, MI, 1960; 12 Artists West of the Mississippi, Colo. Springs Fine Art Ctr., Colo., 1961, 1963; Instituto Allende, Mexico, 1961 (solo); The Southwest Painting and Sculpture Mus. of FA, Houston, TX, 1963; Drawings USA," St. Paul Art Center, MN, 1964; 70th Western Ann. Invitational-19 artists, Denver Art Mus., Colo., 1964; Tibor De Nagy Gallery, Houston, TX, 1965 (solo); Philbrook Art Center, 1965 (solo); "Southwestern Traveling Exh.," Mus. of New Mexico, Santa Fe, 1965; Fifty Artists from Fifty States, Am.. Fedn. Arts Traveling Exhib., 1966; "White on White Exh.," DeCordova Mus., Lincoln, MA, 1966; Sheldon Art Gallery, Lincoln, Nebr., 1967 (solo); Joslyn Art Mus., Omaha, NE, 1969; The Group Gallery, Jacksonville, FL, 1970; Central State Univ., Edmond, OK, 1970 (solo); 31st Okla. Ann., Philbrook Art Ctr., Tulsa, 1971 (Grand award); 41st Ann. Exhib., Springfield Art Mus., MO, 1971(purchase award); Cont. Arts Fnd., Okla. City, 1972 (solo); 22nd Ann. Exhib., Fort Smith Art Ctr., Ark., 1972 (first award); Kansas State Univ., Manhattan, KS, 1973 (solo); "Selected Painters," Mulvane Art Center, Topeka, KS, 1974; Delahunty Gallery, TX, 1976, 1978; Texas Christian Univ., Ft. Worth, TX, 1976 (solo); Brena Gallery, Denver, CO, 1977, 1981; Razor Gallery, NYC, 1978 (solo), 1979 (solo); Lubbock Art Center, TX, 1979 (solo); Arts and Humanities Council, Tulsa, OK, 1979 (solo); Goddard Center, Ardmore, OK, 1980 (solo),"Oklahoma Artists-A Centennial Exh.,"1989; "Spotlight on Okla., 11 Artists," Oklah. City Art Mus., OK, 1990."

Work: Addison Gallery Am. Art, Andover, Mass.; Denver Art Mus., CO; Nelson Gallery, Atkins Mus., Kansas City, MO; Dallas Mus. of FA, TX; Joslyn Art Mus., Omaha, Nebr.; Mulvane Art Ctr., Topeka, KS; Univ. of Okla., Fred Jones Jr. Mus. of Art, Tulsa, OK; Kansas State Col., Pittsburgh, KS; KS State Univ. Mus. of Art, Manhattan, KS; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, CO; Masur Mus., Monroe, LA; Ft. Smith Art Center, AR; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock.

Comments: Teaching: prof. art, Univ. Okla., 1947-80; chair., Dept. Des., Univ. of Okla., 1950-55; dir., Mus. of Art, Univ. of Okla., 1957-59; prof. emeritus, Univ. of Okla., 1980-86. Preferred media: oil.

Sources: WW73; Margaret Harold, Prize-winning paintings, Book II & IV ( Allied Publ., 1962 & 1964); info. courtesy of Donna Davies, Fred Jones Jr. Mus. Art, Univ. of OK.

Eugene Bavinger Artwork Arouses Eye, Mind

John Brandenburg

Eugene Bavinger has always stressed process over product sometimes at the expense of the product restlessly seeking new media and materials to express a vision of nature that transcends cultural categories.

But those familiar with his work since 1972, when he discovered glass painting, are aware that the Norman artist has found a way to fuse process and product, creating results that are visually dazzling but never glib.

The masterful, richly varied results of this method of painting on glass, then transferring the image to canvas, plus some of the artist's best earlier work, are handsomely showcased in "Eugene Bavinger 1947-86: A Retrospective."

The 48 paintings by the retired University of Oklahoma art professor emeritus will go on view Saturday at the newly renovated OU Museum of Art, 410 W Boyd.

Paintings from the late '40s and early '50s tend to be precious rather than free-form and expansive, but they remain highly effective and expressive within their more limited surrealistic frame of reference.

"Ontogenesis," a 1947 oil on paper drawing-painting, suggests the slightly absurd, quaintly humorous attempt of two abstractly humanoid figures to embrace within a vaguely rectangular enclosure bordered by ink scribbles.

"Propagation," a fine 1948 oil, depicts an interaction between the vein-like branches of two organic shapes under water, or on the floor of a seaside cave, with a water-soaked newspaper to remind us of man's encroachment.

"Narcissus," a 1950 oil, creates a similar seductive, submarinee ambience, but focuses on the decay and distortion of self-absorption, while a 1951 casein called "Transformation" opens up aquatic windows of light and color.

Middle-period 1959 encaustic on masonite works such as "Journey" and the semi-figurative "Confinement" move toward darker, grimmer, earthier tones black, brown and white as does the more muted "Mercado" of 1961.

Color returns to the somewhat harsh, gestural strokes and textured surfaces of "Festival of the Animals," 1962, a work that prepares us for Bavinger's more drastic sculptural paintings influenced by a year's stay in mexico.

a rosy dawn-dusk glow softens the carved, neoprimitive outlines of "Stele #3" and "Retardando" in plastic cement, but nothing ameliorates the blackened, protruding, muzzle shapes of "Inca," a 1965 corofoam-encaustic.

Stepping back from these grimly disturbing, undeniably powerful if problematic experiments, Bavinger developed his method of applying multiple layers of pure acrylic paint to glass, then transferring the image to canvas in 1972.

The result was a breakthrough to a breathtaking illusion of depth and translucent, ambiguous space where bold strokes, shimmering organic shapes and shifting veils of color could interact to the heart's content of the artist.

"Spring 75," the earliest painting using the new technique, is understandably understated, almost timid, yet at the same time delicate and ethereally satisfying in its distillation of pinks and blues against gray-gold.

The high drama of worlds colliding, imaginary chasms, canyons and force fields, or possibly musical crescendos, are to be found in such virtuoso glass paintings as "Yellow Reach," "Submergence" and "External Forces."

In these tour-de-force mid '70s canvases, the line between microcosm and macrocosm, between microscope, telescope and aerial photograph, is deliberately blurred to create brilliant, whimsical flights of visual fancy.

Black provides the flat, mirror-like background surface artfully exploited in the "Veil Series No. 4" and "Gray Drift," paintings, which elicit a reverent response, like stained glass windows in a dark cathedral.

Black once more becomes dynamic, an imaginary hole to fall through into negative space, or a free-floating rectangle rather than a static background, in the highly illusionistic "Intervening Force No. 4" of 1982.

Eliminating the glass "middle man" and his reliance on black by 1983, Bavinger has returned to applying acrylic paint directly on canvas, stretched tight over glass to preserve the style's illusionistic possibilities.

In so doing, he seems to have freed himself to work with a new boldness, a new directness and a new emphasis on sheer color powerful and primary or pastel and complementary as a vehicle of personal expression.

Colorful, highly charged strokes, bolstered by suggestions of shadows, have a vivid, forcefully gestural impact in such bravura 1985 works as "Prelude to Grand Canyon Suite" and "Orange Crunch."

Color schemes of this year's glowing pink-blue-purple "Vulcan" and "Indian Ritual" have an even more uncanny visual edge, guaranteed to produce some kind of strong response in even the most somnambulant viewer.

Words often seem inadequate to describe the highly abstract yet nature-rooted power of Bavinger's work, but one has little doubt when viewing it of being in the presence of one of the state's and nation's finest artists.

Bavinger will be on hand to give a free public gallery talk about his work and lead a gallery tour of the exhibit at 2 p.m. Sept. 14 at the OU art museum.

To celebrate its gala reopening and major renovation a new white floor and all white, movable, Sheetrock instead of fabric walls the museum will offer a free family day from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 7.

Art history professor to discuss work of Eugene Bavinger Sunday at art museum

Oct 12, 2007 Updated Oct 11, 2014

Sunday, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 555 Elm Avenue in Norman, will host "Eugene A. Bavinger: A Painter's Oklahoma Experience." Dr. Susan Havens Caldwell, Professor of Art History at the University of Oklahoma, will discuss Bavinger's paintings within the artistic and cultural milieu of OU's School of Art and the Norman community. The lecture will begin at 2 p.m. in the museum's Mary Eddy and Fred Jones Auditorium and is free with paid admission to the museum. Early arrival is encouraged due to limited seating.

Born in Sapulpa, Eugene Bavinger chose to remain in his native Oklahoma for his entire career. In 1947, he accepted a teaching position at the OU School of Art in painting, drawing and design, and he would remain on the faculty for the next thirty years. The stimulation from other creative minds, including his colleagues in the art department, greatly influenced Bavinger's work, and Dr. Caldwell will explore this context and interaction in her lecture.

Bavinger's oeuvre often alludes to the natural world. Bruce Goff, dean of the School of Architecture at OU from 1947-1956, designed a home for Bavinger on the edge of a stream and surrounded by the woods. Bavinger and his wife Nancy built the home themselves according to Goff's plans. The experience of building this home, arguably the best of Bruce Goff's houses, in a natural setting became part of the experience that went into Bavinger's paintings.

Outside of the University of Oklahoma, Eugene Bavinger was well known in the state. Dr. Caldwell will offer his reasoning for staying in Oklahoma and the ways in which Oklahoma benefited his art.

The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is at 555 Elm Ave. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens (65+), $3 for children ages 6 to 17 and $2 for OU faculty/staff. Museum Association members, students with a valid OU ID and children under six are admitted free. The museum is free to the public on Tuesdays.

For more information or accommodations on the basis of disability, call the museum at 325-4938.

Bavinger House: An Icon of Midcentury Organic Modern Architecture Is Destroyed

Bavinger House.

by Allison Meier May 11, 2016

A spiraling 1955 house that was considered one of the icons of 20th-century organic modernism has been destroyed. And not just demolished but ripped out of the ground, as Bruce Goff’s Bavinger House in Norman, Oklahoma, had been built right into the state’s red earth. Its corkscrew shape, constructed over several years with artists Nancy and Eugene Bavinger and local University of Oklahoma (OU) students, contained floors lofted on cables above a stone ground embedded with a creek. The whole structure was almost hidden by a grove of blackjack trees.

On April 28, Caleb Slinkard reported for the Norman Transcript that “all that is left of the Bavinger House is an empty clearing.” According to Slinkard, the demolition was confirmed by Bill Scott, president of the Friends of Kebyar, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of organic architecture; Scott called the site where the house once stood “scorched earth.” Slinkard added that “multiple calls” to Bob Bavinger — the son of the house’s original owners and its owner at the time of demolition — “were not returned by press time.”

The news had been shared, three days earlier, in the Save Wright forum by Zachary Matthews, who posted an April 17 email from “The Bavinger Boys.” The text reads: “The Bavinger House receives the ‘It’s Gone” award.’” (This is seemingly a reference to the accolades the house received, such as the AIA Twenty-Five Year Award in 1987 and a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.) A photograph shows a CAT excavator and not much else, the stone, glass, and metal remains of the house all hauled away.

Unfortunately, the destruction of the Bavinger House is not surprising. Back in 2011, the home appeared to suffer damage in a storm, and when a crew with News 9 attempted to see the house, they were “greeted with gunfire.” Then, Bob Bavinger told the Norman Transcript that he’d had to “remove the target,” meaning the house, as he thought OU was attempting to get in the way of his own restoration efforts. The status of the house remained something of a mystery (it sat on private property, accessed by a rural road) until last July, when PraireMod reported that it had been contacted by Bob Bavinger’s son, Boz, who claimed to be putting the property up for sale for the price of $1.5 million. An accompanying photograph showed the base of the building mostly intact, although the spire had been snapped off and support cables were mangled.

The Bavinger House was “seen by many as the crowing achievement of [Bruce Goff’s] extensive body of work,” wrote Greg LeMaire at ArchDaily in 2011. The following year, I wrote about Goff’s endangered legacy for Hyperallergic; the Bavinger House was still in limbo then, along with several of his other projects. Goff was one of the most creative DIY architects of the 20th century, often repurposing household objects (like pie tins for light fixtures), involving owners in construction, and connecting with natural settings in a tactile way, much like his mentor Frank Lloyd Wright. A 1951 Life magazine article on Goff’s Ford House in Aurora, Illinois, called him “one of the few US architects whom Frank Lloyd Wright considers creative” and said he “scorns houses that are ‘boxes with little holes.’” The Ford House was far from a box — more like a bird cage containing a living space — and like many of Goff’s projects received a mixed reception. The Fords famously put up a sign in their yard, proclaiming, “We don’t like your house either.”

The Bavinger House: Art Meets Architecture

Bavinger House.

What happens when an eclectic artist meets an equally eclectic architect? The answer lies in the Bavinger House in Norman, Oklahoma. In 1950, artist and teacher Eugene Bavinger asked architect Bruce Goff to design a home that would reflect his artistic spirit- novel and without boundaries. What resulted is a home unlike any other. Goff was Chairman of the University of Oklahoma School of Architecture, an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, and he already had the famous Art Deco masterpiece Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa to his credit. His years at the university were during what many consider his creative peak. Bavinger is credited with perfecting an acrylic glass-on-canvas technique that created paintings exceptionally fluid and reflective. It was preordained that the Bavinger House would be special indeed. The dream was realized in 1955 when the house was completed. From ground level, the house tightly spirals toward the heavens around a large iron pipe in the middle. The structure is held together and supported inside and out with cables. A bridge on one side is a counterbalance to stabilize the house. Save the bathroom and the kitchen, there are no real rooms in the Bavenger House. The interior is open throughout, a fish pond winds through the living area. The bedrooms hang from the ceiling and once featured wrap-around curtains that could be closed for privacy. The closets are large, round military surplus bomb shipping containers. The house was finished the year Bob Bavinger was born and it was a Valentine present for his mother. For a youngster, it was a giant playhouse. He told me, "If you wanted to be a little monkey and run around, it was truly fun to grow up in. Originally the fish pond that’s here came all the way over and from my two and three year old days, I played with the fish in my stroller in the fish pond, so that was a lot of fun. We had a duck and it was in the fish pond a lot." Bavinger admits that it wasn't like everyone's house, but it was a home where one could have as much or as little privacy as they desired. At times, the house is almost magical. Goff left the interior rock walls in their natural condition and the ledges of stone in the living area became shelves where orchids were displayed. Large chunks of green glass are set in the walls and when the sun is right, they glow.

Some consider Bavinger House Goff's finest creation while others wonder if it was even a liveable structure. Bob Bavinger says it was, and he is fulfilling a promise he made to his mother and father to open the house for tours. Some of Eugene Bavinger's paintings are displayed in the house and Bob says his parents wanted people to appreciate his father as an artist and Goff as an architect; two incredibly creative people who merged their talents to bring to life one of the world's unique dwellings. He has created the Bavinger House Conservancy, a non-profit organization to raise money for the upkeep of the landmark home. He intends, he says, to preserve, "an alternative way to live, compared to what some people call ticky-tacky boxes."

There is no chance that Bavinger House will ever be mistaken for a ticky-tacky box.


About Pickens Museum

Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. Seeking to attain his tribe's highest war honor by touching his enemy. This action among indigenous peoples is called "Counting Coup".
Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. “Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp” is a bronze created by Osage Artist John Free. The bronze, eight feet high and twelve feet long) was enlarged to 1-1/4 life size through the efforts of John Free of the Bronze Horse foundry in Pawhuska and Hugh Pickens. Pictured (L-R): Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. “Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman” is a mural painted by fine artist Daniel Pickens. Daniel was born in Lima, Peru in 1974 and is currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. This mural is at our Ponca City location.
“"War Club" by Native Artist Yatika Starr Fields was recently acquired from Garth Greenam Gallery to Pickens Museum. Personal and social struggle have long been integral to the artist’s practice. After joining the Water Protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, Fields increasingly centered the Indigenous history of hope and struggle in his work, particularly in his studio practice. In his 2017 series, Tent Metaphor Standing Rock, Field recovered tents after the infamous February 22, 2017 police raid on the protesters. The artist recombined the vivid tenting material—the mainstay of middle-class camping holidays that has become an icon of homelessness and protest movements—into traditional Indigenous patterns, anti-pipeline slogans, and into dynamic, compelling abstract compositions. As in his graffiti works, Fields blurs the line between abstraction and representation, creating stylistic compositions out of recognizable elements, and setting them against dynamic, swirling fields of color and twisting forms. The works blur the boundaries between political polemic and abstraction, between distress, resistance and hope.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. Our mural "The Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman" is located in City Central at our Ponca City location.
Doctor Pickens Museum of Turquoise Jewelry and Art. Pickens Museum displays art works at NOC Tonkawa campus. Pictured (L-R): Dr. Cheryl Evans, NOC President, Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum, and Sheri Snyder, NOC Vice President for Development and Community Relations. (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College) This art is at our Tonkawa location
Native American Artist Yatika Starr Fields Completes Mural for Pickens Museum.
The World's Largest Naja. Future location of Pickens Museum on Route 60 and "U" Street West of Ponca City
Architectural Renderings of Pickens Museum.
Aerial View from East of Future location of Pickens Museum along Route 60 at "U" Street West of Ponca City
Display of Turquoise Jewelry.
Drum player by Allan Houser. This stone carving is part of the collection at Pickens Museum.
"Red Man" by Native American Artist Fritz Scholder. Pickens Museum Director Hugh Pickens on right.
Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp.
Native American Jewelry Artist Tonya Rafael with a silver frame she created to honor my wife Sr. S.J. Pickens. My wife and Tonya worked together over the years creating new jewelry art pieces. My wife had an eye for color and would often design a spectacular piece and ask Tonya to execute it for her. A skilled silversmith, Tonya would sometimes stay in our guest house, set up a workshop, and work for days at a time on a Squash Blossom, Bolo, or Bracelet my wife commissioned. The piece is a silver picture frame that Tonya cut out of thick silver plate. Around the edge of the picture frame are 95 small turquoise stones. In the top is a large spiny oyster stone in the shape of a heart. The frame contains a photo that Tonya took of my wife a few years ago. Dr. Pickens is wearing one of her favorite outfits and if you look closely you can see a special squash blossom and necklace that Tonya created for my wife. In the bottom of the frame is an inscription.
Native American Artist Jolene Bird. Jolene Bird is an accomplished artist who learned her craft from her grandfather over 20 years ago. Jolene makes her jewelry in the tradition of the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico. This is a Fender Stratocaster guitar onto which Jolene has attached pieces of Kingman and Sonoran Turquoise highlighted with Jet. The stars are in Abalone, Mother of Pearl, Pipestone, Yellow Serpentine, and Spiny Oyster. The artistry in this piece is simply breathtaking and has to be seen to be believed. Consider that this is a three dimensional mosaic, a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle if you will. Jolene told me that each individual piece of turquoise had to be cut, shaped, and ground down to fit perfectly with the other pieces. Each individual piece probably took six to eight hours to produce and there are literally hundreds of pieces covering the guitar.
American Indian by Paul Manship This piece at Pickens Museum is the only known existing copy of this sculpture.
Painting by Peruvian Artist Josue Sanchez. Photo Credit: Hugh Pickens Pickens Museum

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