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James Surls

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The Jerome M. Westheimer, Sr. & Wanda Otey Westheimer Distinguished Visiting Artist Chair:
James Surls

October 2, 2015 – January 3, 2016


Nature figures prominently in the work of sculptor James Surls. Over the course of four decades, he has developed evocative, hybrid forms in wood, steel, and bronze inspired by flowers, the human body, and rock formations. His recent work explores his previous inspirations as well as the microcosmic worlds of neurons and molecules. Drawn from recent drawings and sculptures, this exhibition showcases Surls’ intriguing investigation of the natural world. Surls serves as the fifth guest artist in the university’s Jerome M. Westheimer, Sr. and Wanda Otey Westheimer Distinguished Visiting Artist Chair program.

In addition to works on display inside the museum, three of Surls’ sculptures are permanently installed on OU’s Norman and Health Sciences Center campuses, and the exhibition includes the temporary installation of another three outdoor works. The two sculptures permanently installed on the OU Norman campus are located on the Stuart Walk, a path in honor of OU Regent Jon Stuart and his wife, Dee Dee Stuart, for their dedication in planting trees on the campus. Big Walking Eye Flower I (2000), a gift of OU First Lady Molly Shi Boren and OU President David L. Boren, is located near the museum’s entrance. Also nearby is Needle Woman with Two Flowers (2000), which was a gift to the museum from the estate of Mark Landrum and is located in front of the Jan Marie and Richard J. Crawford Music Practice Wing. At the entrance of the Stephenson Cancer Center at the OU Health Sciences Center is Ten Big Standing Bronze Flowers. The exhibition includes the temporary installation of three additional outdoor works on the northern end of OU’s Norman campus.

Read the press release here.

View the public sculpture map here.

Use the family gallery guide to find shapes and symbols in the exhibition!


"James Surls: A Universe Apart" is presented in conjunction with the Jerome M. and Wanda Otey Westheimer Distinguished Visiting Artist exhibition at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art located on the campus of the University of Oklahoma.


Live Drawing
Tue Sept 29, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sandy Bell Gallery
James Surls

Surls will create a drawing for the Distinguished Visiting Artist exhibition during his visit to the University of Oklahoma. The live drawing is open to the public, and visitors are invited to drop in beginning at 10 a.m. The approximate end time will be 4 p.m. If you would like to inquire about the progress of the drawing before visiting, please call the museum’s front desk at (405) 325-4938.

Gallery Talk
Tue Oct 6, 12:30 pm
Nancy Johnston Records Gallery
Presented by Robert Bailey,  Assistant Professor, Art History, OU School of Art & Art History
Bailey will lead a walking tour discussing selected works from James Surls exhibition. 

Outdoor Sculpture Walk with Therapy Dogs!
Thu Oct. 15, 3:30–4:15 p.m.
Presented by Mark White, Wylodean and Bill Saxon Director and Eugene B. Adkins Curator, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

White will lead an outdoor walking tour of James Surls's sculptures joined by therapy dogs from A New Leash on Life. Visitors should meet at the entrance of the museum. In the case of inclement weather, White will lead an indoor tour of the exhibition Distinguished Visiting Artist: James Surls. Please direct questions to Melissa Smith, Director of Education, at (405) 325-3270.

Family Day
Sun Nov 15
Dee Dee and Jon R. Stuart Classroom

Explore the drawings and sculptural forms of James Surls: Westheimer Visiting Artist Chair and then create 2D and 3D art of your own.

College Night
Thur Dec 10, 7-9 pm
Dee Dee and Jon R. Stuart Classroom
Students are invited to explore the special exhibition on the museum's late night for a special screening of a documentary about James Surls and his exhibition. After seeing the documentary, students are invited to stop by the museum’s classroom to create their own work of art inspired by the artist’s drawing and sculpture. This program is free and open to all college students or recent graduates. 

James Surls (U.S., b.1943)
Walking Through the Thorn Vine, 2014
Bronze and stainless steel
135 x 133 x 64 in.
On loan from the artist