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by Woody Crumbo

Dimensions: 16 x 12.25
Gift of John A. Barrett on behalf of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, 2005

Starlight by Woody Crumbo

The Artwork

In this night scene, a doe and her fawn are seen in profile with their attention drawn to the sky. Stars appear forming a loose horizontal band across the top of the print with largest star directly above the head of the fawn and in the gaze of the doe. The ground is predominantly in a blanket of light blue and white snow which seems to have melted below the deer revealing the barren ground below. The artist creates visual movement in the scene through the diagonal lines formed by the deer's legs and the curving line of the hills on the horizon. Though it is unclear what exactly is happening in this image, the artist uses several visual elements to draw the viewer's attention to the large star in the sky.

The Artist

Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Crumbo, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi nation, became a well-known artist of Native American subjects. Widely known for his paintings, etchings, silkscreens, stained glass, jewelry, and flutes, Crumbo was also a dancer. During the Depression, he organized a dance troupe that performed traditional dances.

Crumbo was born in 1912 on his mother's allotment near Lexington, Oklahoma. He began his formal art training at age 17 at the Chilocco Indian School. He went on to attend the American Indian Institute in Wichita, Kansas, where he graduated valedictorian of his class. From 1931-1933, he attended Wichita University and the University of Oklahoma, where he studied under Oscar Jacobson from 1936-1938.

In 1938, he was named the Director of Art at Bacone College in Muskogee. While at Bacone, he designed and constructed a stained glass window for the college’s Rose Chapel. At Bacone, he influenced many students including Willard Stone and C. Terry Saul.

During the summer months from 1939 to 1941, Crumbo and a few other Indian artists were commissioned by the U.S. Department of Interior to study mural painting with Olaf Nordmark and to paint murals in the Interior Department building in Washington, D.C. In 1943, he was commissioned to paint the mural Rainbow Trail in the Post Office in Nowata, Oklahoma.

In 1945, Crumbo's contributions and talents were acknowledged when he was selected for the annual Julius Rosenwald Fellowship, the only American Indian ever to receive the award. From 1945 to 1948, he was employed by the Thomas Gilcrease Institute in Tulsa to assemble an American Indian art collection. Crumbo selected a large number of works in the art collection and the museum holds more than 160 works by Crumbo.

In 1960, Woody Crumbo was named Assistant Director of the Museum of Art in El Paso, Texas, where he was also a curator, largely responsible for assembling the museum’s permanent collection. In 1974, he and his wife returned to Oklahoma, living and working in Okmulgee, where he continued his art and humanitarian activities. He was instrumental in organizing the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in building their cultural heritage center near Shawnee.

An artist-in-residence at Gilcrease Foundation, he was also appointed as an Oklahoma Ambassador of Good Will in 1982. Crumbo's service to the art community continued with an appointment to the Oklahoma Arts Council from 1979-1984. His paintings are in numerous museums, galleries, and private collections including the University of Oklahoma; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Museum of Northern Arizona; Indian Arts and Crafts Board of the U.S. Department of Interior; The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; and, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., among many others.

Both Queen Elizabeth of England and the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, own complete numbered sets of Crumbo's etchings and silk screens. Woody Crumbo passed away in 1989.