Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art frames small snapshot from artist, dedicated collector

Of her recent donation of her photography collection to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, Carol Beesley said, "I've always wanted beautiful things around me, and I just decided it was time to share."


"The Creative Eye: Selections from the Carol Beesley Collection of Photographs, in Honor of Michael Hennagin," on display at the museum through Jan. 3, 2010, represents a cross section of the more than 100 images recently donated by Beesley.

"Carol has been a serious collector of photography for almost 30 years," said Alan Atkinson, curator of the exhibition. "What we're looking at is a collection formed by somebody that has a very educated eye with respect to photography."

An artist herself and an emeritus professor of art at OU, Beesley became fascinated with photography as a graduate student at the University of California Los Angeles and started seriously collecting while teaching a course at OU on the history of photography.

"Some people spend their money on TVs or they spend it on cars, and I'm the person that spends it on photography," she said.

Years of hunting for images with her eye on an eclectic sense of beauty produced a collection with prominent photographers like Paul Caponigro, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Laura Gilpin and Edward Weston, mingled with local and student photographers.

"The reason we called the exhibition 'The Creative Eye' is she is a creative individual who has brought her own aesthetic and artistic interest to draw these different groups of photographers together in this collection," Atkinson said. "Carol is very interested in people and their relationship to place, so portraits are important in the collection, as are landscapes and still-life subjects."

"The Creative Eye" is dedicated to Michael Hennagin, her late husband, a composer and professor of music at OU. Due to space limitations imposed by the museum's current construction and restricted gallery space, only 15 photographs could be displayed in the exhibit.

"The scale of the exhibit is tiny "? really a delectable, bite-size thing "? but every photograph in it is, if not a heart-stopper, at least a strong, arresting, beautiful image," Atkinson said.

Iconic portraits of Georgia O'Keeffe by Laura Gilpin and Mother Teresa by Mary Ellen Mark are immediately familiar, as are William Wegman's Weimaraner and canine muse Fay Ray, and Jerry N. Uelsmann's luminescent composite of leaves hovering over a beach. Others are fresh and mesmerizing, like Sam Adams' capture of a fire hydrant spewing water over a street in Juarez, Mexico, and Dawna Wallis' study of two 1980s fashionistas at an Oklahoma City mall.

"I've always loved the fact that photography is so commonplace in our lives, more so than any other art form," Beesley said. "There is no one who ever sees a photograph who has not looked through a lens and seen the world through a camera."

This winter, the photographs will be rotated out, and another group will be displayed to represent her collection. After the completion of the museum's expansion, a permanent gallery for photography will host works from Beesley's collection, as well as pieces from the museum's already established photography collection.

"As director, I'm extremely dedicated to photography because it's a medium that every student and the public can relate to," said Ghislain d'Humi