Urbana: Ancient Spirits Embrace the City, Flute

Jim VanDeman

Jim VanDeman is a contemporary artist and former vice-chairman of the Delaware Nation. His family’s Oklahoma roots run deep – his great grandfather, Chief Black Beaver served as a scout and interpreter, speaking eleven different languages. He escorted settlers as well as Union soldiers before building a home in what is now Caddo County. VanDeman was born and raised in Anadarko, Oklahoma, where the influence of local artists, including the Kiowa Six, made a lasting impression on his painting career. He studied with Richard H. Taflinger and George Calvert at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

He initially worked as a graphic designer. Traveling as an advertising and marketing director led him to make frequent visits to The National Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Boston Museum of Art and the Chicago Institute of Art. Face to face exposure to the Impressionist masters, Monet and Renoir, inspired VanDeman to begin his own painting career. His works range from impressionist to abstract expressionist, depicting VanDeman’s Delaware heritage and other Native American subjects.

Urbana was commissioned for the Oklahoma Judicial Center in December 2010. VanDeman toured the building while it was still under construction, observing the unique mixture of historic and modern reflected in the structure. That theme is echoed in this piece, an acrylic on canvas. “Spirits of our ancestors reside in our cities. They have always been here. They are here now. Not always visible. Hardly ever obvious. Sometimes they are no more than a feeling, but they are here. The spirits of the land existed before the cities were built and they will continue to exist when the cities are gone,” VanDeman included in his artist statement.

VanDeman has been making flutes about fifteen years. This one is styled after a Kiowa design from the early 1900’s. It was made from a giant red cedar harvested in Geary, Oklahoma. VanDeman donated the flute to the Oklahoma Judicial Center collection.

Source: Artist provided biography and statement.

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