Work of O. Gail Poole lives on after death 

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The paintings in the south lobby of Myriad Botanical Gardens’ Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory are quite different from one another. There’s a still life, a few lavishly gilded cat paintings and abstract portraits. There’s even a vibrant poster advertising a long-forgotten stage act, “Delmonico Tempts His Cats,” complete with the tiger that eventually killed and ate Delmonico.

Their subject matter and execution swing widely from wall to wall, as if the exhibit was curated by distracted children.

“Well, he did get bored easily,” said Norman-based artist Nicole Poole of her late father, O. Gail Poole. “His sketchbooks were always full, and I have tons and tons of them. ... He was always searching for his voice, and I don’t think he ever thought that he found it. His searching was his voice.”

The exhibit, Flora and Felines, is Nicole’s latest effort to show the world her father’s work. The renowned American master and Oklahoman died three years ago.

Ever since, Nicole has booked and curated dozens of shows showcasing some of the thousands of original works she has saved.

“Dad went to Happy Mountain three years ago, and I made it my mission in life to make sure people knew his work,” she said. “He just worked too damn hard, and I want to educate people on how you recognize a Poole.”

That might be a tall order. Just visit any of his current or upcoming exhibits for proof. On his website, his works are broken down into no less than eight categories ranging from “pen and ink” to “imaginative realism.” His paintings swerve from the muted tones and soft realism of painter Edward Hopper to the vibrant, almost cartoonish swagger of Leroy Neiman.

Despite the stream-of-consciousness timeline of Poole’s work, one thread does knit all the paintings together: They’re all good. It was as if Poole mastered the style he was curious about before moving on to a new challenge.

“I totally understand that. If I was an actor, I wouldn’t want to play just one role,” Nicole said. “That may have been a detriment to his career, actually, but he didn’t care.”

When asked what her father taught her as an artist, Nicole laughed. “Well, he kept me from painting most of my life, for starters,” she said. “But on top of that, I know what’s effective and good because of what he showed me. It’s almost like these are my paintings. I feel like I’ve done them, like when you’re in a dream and can speak a foreign language. That’s how familiar they are to me.”

Flora and Felines runs through May 27 inside Myriad Botanical Gardens’ Crystal Bridge south lobby, 301 W. Reno Ave. Another exhibit, O. Gail Poole: Rediscovered Oklahoma Master, launches May 12 at Gaylord-Pickens Museum, 1400 Classen Drive. It runs through Aug. 27.

After that, Nicole said she is taking her father’s work to the world. A show she’s calling Cowboys and Popes debuts in August at Galerie Arludik in Paris and will feature approximately 30 of her father’s works.

“I’m just not stopping,” Nicole said of her mission.

Print headline: Purr-fection, O. Gail Poole’s daughter scratches out a place in history in which to showcase her late father’s work.

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