Eagle

G. Patrick Riley

The commissioned Eagle sculpture is twenty-eight feet in length and is mounted in the open atrium spanning the first, second, and third floors – an alcove of more than forty feet. Artist Patrick Riley toured the building in August 2010 while it was still under construction. Inspired by the light, airy qualities of the alcove, he then faced the challenge of selecting materials that would stand the test of time. Leather or fabric would disintegrate with sun exposure, but the lustrous alloy of stainless steel would resist corrosion, and also shimmer under the blazing Oklahoma sun.

Riley completed the Eagle in less than a year, but in many ways he had been working on it his entire life. “I have always had an affinity for the winged creatures of our universe.” This began with Biblical angels and continued with Roman art and emblems featuring eagles. A visit to London’s British Museum in 1973 fueled Riley’s fascination with winged art creations of the Sumerians and Babylonians. When he returned to Oklahoma, he made leather mask sculptures with feathered wings. His sculptural masks gained popularity and in 1974, he was commissioned to create the set and costumes for Ballet Oklahoma’s production of Firebird, including many masks and a special winged headdress for the ballet’s main villain.

Riley later traveled to India, exploring an entirely new dimension of mask art through the winged mythical characters of the Hindu culture. Returning to Oklahoma, Riley became involved with the Native American Center in Oklahoma City. Influenced by the Native American reverence for eagles, he incorporated their images into his work. In 2006, Riley began using stainless steel to embody his artistic vision of majestic winged creatures.

He considers the Eagle the best representation of his stainless steel sculpture work to date, evoking the myth and mystery of the human archetype in a winged persona. “People understand the content of the Eagle – it is a universal symbol of power and compassion.” Drawing on Native American tradition, Riley regards the Eagle as a representation of the ultimate consciousness (the Grandfather) echoing the role of the judiciary in Oklahoma. As the National Bird, the eagle has long symbolized the American government and in this instance represents the power of the Judicial Branch in the administration of justice throughout Oklahoma.

The twelve-foot wings of the Eagle lean out from the wall, poised for flight with the edges polished to represent feathers. The interior wing surface retains a rough texture, allowing for maximum sunlight reflection, a finish repeated on the Eagle’s head. Light passing through the skylight overhead provides the sculpture with a dynamic quality, as the sunlight shifts and moves, the satin-finished stainless steel produces a diamond sparkle. The sculpture was fabricated by Collin Rosebrook of Paseo Pottery, see page 167.

In 1986, Riley was awarded an artist/teacher fellowship from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His work has been exhibited at the Fairtree Gallery of Contemporary Craft in New York City and the R Street Gallery in Washington, D.C. He received the Arts in Education award during the 1995 Governor’s Arts Awards and a Special Recognition award during the 2011 Governor’s Arts Awards.

Riley’s art interest began at a young age and has never ceased. He earned a bachelor’s of fine art from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and a master’s of art education from the University of Oklahoma. As a teacher and as the Fine Arts Director for Oklahoma City Public Schools, Riley has shared his passion for art with thousands of Oklahomans over the years. Though retired from daily teaching, Riley still serves as an Artist in Residence for the Oklahoma Arts Council and frequently teaches workshops around the state.

Ralph B. Hodges – Robert E. Lavender Award for Judicial Excellence

A miniature version of the Eagle, rendered in leather, serves as the Ralph B. Hodges – Robert E. Lavender Award for Judicial Excellence, established in 2012. The award is named in honor of two Supreme Court Justices, both appointed in the wake of the 1965 judicial reform measures, who restored the reputation of the Court. To date, two recipients have received this honor: retired Court of Civil Appeals Judge Carol M. Hansen and retired District Judge Donald Worthington. Their names are engraved on metal plates, just below the eagle’s head, leaving room for future recipients.

Ralph B. Hodges was appointed to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma on April 19, 1965, after serving six and a half years as a district judge. His life in public service began at the age of 25, when he was elected as Bryan County Attorney. He became the youngest elected district judge the following year and was the youngest justice appointed to the Supreme Court since statehood. He served as chief justice in 1977 and 1978, and again in 1993 and 1994. His devotion to the state of Oklahoma led him to mentor other public servants, including his staff lawyer, Yvonne Kauger, who was appointed as a justice in 1984. Hodges’ honesty, integrity and devotion to the law were well known during his forty-six years on the judicial bench. He retired from the Supreme Court in 2004 and died January 16, 2013.

Robert E. Lavender was appointed to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma on June 24, 1965. Prior to being appointed, he had been practicing law in Claremore, Oklahoma. He served as chief justice of the Court in 1979 and 1980. Over the years, his calm demeanor and thoughtful guidance provided an air of stability for newly appointed justices. He retired from the Supreme Court in 2007, after serving forty-two years as a justice – longer than any other justice in Oklahoma history.

Riley donated the whimsical mixed media mask, Tutankhamun, to the Oklahoma Judicial Center collection. Part of the artist’s Egyptian series, it includes leather, beads, copper, feathers, ribbons and acrylic paint. It is displayed on the third floor of the Oklahoma Judicial Center.