By David L. Boeck
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — I’ve known O. Gail Poole for quite a few years. Not the whole time I’ve been here, but as I have gotten involved in the Norman community after graduation and starting my professional career, I’ve gotten to know a number of the local artists either at local galleries, the Fire House Art Center, the Santa Fe Depot or just from having coffee in different venues around town. Gail fits into the gallery and coffee category.
I had never really talked to him other than at a social level. It seemed, as I have gotten to know him better in the last four to five years, that I really enjoyed the discussions and his outlook on things. I saw him at Panera one Monday morning and it occurred to me that he might have a lot to say about art and aging here in Norman.
I wasn’t disappointed. We met after his weekly “think tank,” which is in the 10 to 11 slot on Mondays and Fridays. I started by asking him all the standard questions like “How old are you?” and, “Where were you born?” “What directed you toward being an artist?” and other questions like that.
Well, I am a firm believer in the influence of family, good or bad, or both, in influencing how we turn out. My dad and mom were teachers, and all five of us children are teaching or have taught. Come to find out, Gail’s dad was an artist. There was that connection. Just because his dad wasn’t around after the age of 4 doesn’t mean he didn’t influence Gail. He painted murals at the public schools before he left and left a legacy for Gail to live around in the small Oklahoma town of Bradley.
Gail did a stint in the Army, thinking that might be his life’s ambition, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he studied art here at OU under the likes of Gene Bavinger, Joe Taylor and Jim Hinkle.
Some artists are focused on a specific style or subject matter of art. Gail has never done that. That didn’t mean he didn’t try. He said one of his goals was to develop a distinctive style but it just never happened. When you look at his website and see the variety of styles and subject matter, it is easy to see he is comfortable using whatever style that is needed to get his ideas across.
So when I asked him how his creativity, goals or approach to art have changed as he has matured, I was expecting a long, drawn-out explanation of how he is more thoughtful or he has focused more on style or he has moved to try different techniques that he has never done before. I was not prepared to hear him say that he is not doing art and hasn’t since some health issues have minimized his energy levels to the point where he just couldn’t focus. It’s not that he doesn’t want to paint or has that he has lost interest in having a creative outlet. That drive is still there. He is frustrated with the situation as it is and is working with doctors to reverse this situation. It has left him frustrated and impatient to figure out the issues so that they can be reversed and he can get back to doing what he loves.
The bottom line is age-related health issues can sidetrack even the most creative minds from reaching for their dreams. This is something many older adults have expressed. The question becomes not if but when the issues can or will be reversed and a new direction established, what will the outcome be? Gail is not sitting back and passively accepting the current situation. Time will tell how successful his current path will be in allowing him to get back to what he loves most: telling stories on canvas.
One thing that is clear for Gail is that success is more about the quest and not about the outcome, the search to find the way to express himself and express the visions in his head. He is a patient artist who isn’t giving up on the ideal. I quote Sherrie McGraw who says, “O. Gail Poole is a maverick and is, as yet, untamed. Perhaps, he is like a volcano at rest, occasionally letting off a puff of smoke or steam, a glimmering of molten lava, waiting for the moment to fully express his passion within. I caught him in between puffs of steam.”
David L. Boeck, is an associate professor of architecture at the University of Oklahoma College of Architecture.
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