Friday, February 6, 2015

NORMAN, OKLAHOMA: UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA

About half an hour south of Oklahoma City is the booming metropolis of Norman (pop. 110,000). I had never heard of Norman, but my husband was set on a visit because one of his travel checklists is Great Universities of the World, and the University of Oklahoma is in Norman.

The University of Oklahoma hadn't made my list of Great Universities, but I can't recite football statistics like my husband can. OU (not U of O) is a football and basketball powerhouse.


But before I get to that, I have to talk about my pre-conceptions once again being shattered. The campus is absolutely gorgeous, more like Oxford or Yale than I thought could be possible for anything in Oklahoma.
Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center, built in 1918. William Jennings Bryan, Louis Armstrong,
Martha Graham, William Butler Yeats, and Aaron Copland, among others, have graced the stage here.
The Bizzell Library
George Lynn Cross, President of OU from 1943-1968.

After a visit to OU, Frank Lloyd Wright dubbed its architectural style "Cherokee gothic," classic gothic mixed with symbols and designs of Oklahoma's Native American tribes.
A pseudo-Britishness is created both by the building style and by these London-esque phone booths sprinkled around campus. They were donated by Southwestern Bell "For the beautification of the University of Oklahoma Campus and for the safety and convenience of its students."
Yes, there is actually a working phone inside. I haven't seen a working phone booth in years.

Even though the Big Deal on campus has to be the football stadium, OU has been ranked in the top 50 public universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. I am particularly impressed by their Native American Studies program, which includes language classes in Cherokee, Choctaw, Muskogee Creek, and Kiowa. They also have the #1 meteorology program and #3 dance program in the country, and an advertising program in the top 10 nationwide. That's amazing diversity.

But on to the Big Deal: football. OU football has garnered seven national championships and produced five Heisman trophy winners.  That is notable, I must admit.
The Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, aka Palace on the Prairie, can seat over 82,000 fans.
Off to one side of the stadium is "Heisman Row," five larger-than-life statues of the five OU football players who have one the Heisman Trophy: Halfback Billy Vessels (1952), Running back Steve Owens (1969), Running back Billy Sims (1978), Quarterback Jason White (2003), and Quarterback Sam Bradford (2008).
I loved the architecture, the mood, and the homage to football at OU, but again, it was the unique art that stole the show for me, beginning, I suppose, with those Heisman statues, but really hitting me when we ran across this thirty-foot-long bronze sculpture Pastoral Dreamer (2003) by David Phelps, who got his MFA from OU in 1984.
This guy is almost 5 1/2 times taller than I am.
He is Oklahoma's very own version of Big Foot:

We drove past another sculpture on our way to the stadium, and I made my husband turn around a go back. How could we not stop for this?
I was stunned to learn it was Sphinx, a 1995 bronze by Fernando Botero.  I clearly remember the first time I saw a sculpture by Botero, whom I had never heard of at the time. Back in 2006 our artist son recognized a bronze horse in the airport in Spain as a Botero and introduced us. Botero, a Columbian artist, is known for his pudgy figures, both human and animal.  And here was Botero--in Oklahoma.

The sculpture was on the lawn outside the OU Art Museum. Unfortunately, we had to make a choice between the museum and lunch. We chose lunch, but not before enjoying another sculpture in the museum yard, a powerful steel piece entitled The Sacrifice of Isaac (1985) by Menashe Kadishman.
In this version of the classical Biblical story, the ram looms triumphantly over the dead body of Isaac rather than vice versa. Isaac is a symbol of youth who are sent into battle--sacrificed--and the ram represents the state government--those responsible for war.

Our final stop in Oklahoma was at The Earth Cafe and Deli, a classic college-town hippie restaurant full of vegan dishes, organic groceries, and natural incense twists.
Lots to love and not much to complain about here. We figured we needed one really healthy meal before hitting Dallas. Everything is bigger in Texas--and richer and more fattening, right?
Vegan cheese, sprouts, avocado, sunflower
seeds, and tomatoes
Cauliflower soup with curry and rye
Sandwich with veggie cheese, avocado,
and tomato on rye
Okay, we're ready. Bring on the Texas barbecue.

2 comments:

  1. OU really was a nice diversion. Gems in unexpected places.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lots of fun statues. I like the Pastoral Dreamer--it would be just right for my front yard.

    ReplyDelete

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