National Exhibition Honors Oklahoma Artist

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Jim Bruce
The Geisha and the Rose Museum.

National Exhibition Honors Oklahoma Artist

BY M. J. VAN DEVENTER

Oklahoma City oil painter Jim Bruce has finally achieved a long-time goal to have an art show at the prestigious Salmagundi Club in New York City.

He shared the honor of showing his work in the exclusive Patrons Gallery with a fellow artist, Scott Christensen. The Salmagundi show, Inside & Out – Dual Visions, was on exhibit Sept. 17-Oct. 1.

A resident of Victor, Idaho, Christensen is noted for winning the coveted Prix de West Purchase Award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 2000.

The Salmagundi Club is one of the oldest, most distinctive art clubs in America, established in 1871 as a private sketch club for some of the country’s most prominent artists.

Bruce has been familiar with the club for more than 50 years.

“During my trips to New York City as a banker, I would go to the club to enjoy its elegant atmosphere and art. The artists who founded the club are some of my art heroes,” he said.

He applied for membership and was accepted as a non-resident member in 2011.

The show also was a culmination of a suggestion to Bruce from Christensen that they have a two-man show sometime.

“I was in Idaho painting with Scott, working on ideas for achieving a tonal approach to painting, and he said we should have a show together,” Bruce recalled.

“I thought, ‘What a treat that would be for me. Scott’s suggestion was an honor.’ To show at a prestigious art club in New York City with one of my favorite master artists – young as he is – would be at the top of my art bucket list.”

The show’s title was a suggestion from the artists’ good friend, fellow oil painter Sherrie McGraw of Taos, N. M. Bruce’s art reflects his flair for painting still lifes. Scott’s forte is landscapes, often on a monumental scale, like the painting that won the Prix de West Award.

Bruce is a native Oklahoman, having grown up in Tishomingo and graduated from Ardmore High School. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1960, graduating with special distinction. He served in the. U.S. Navy as a commissioned officer from 1960 to 1963 and then attended Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, earning his MBA.

When Bruce was 14, he began taking art lessons from Faye
Burnett Baker, a prominent Ardmore artist. His real love for art was ignited a year later, when he took a summer workshop from the noted Oklahoma City artist, the late Richard V. Goetz.

Bruce said, “Goetz became a lifelong friend and mentor and instilled in me a love for still life painting and color harmony. He taught me how to see color and the beauty of putting objects together in harmony and design to create the overall mood I wanted to achieve.”

He adds, “The focus on ‘painting what you see’ has always set the creative tone for me.”

It’s also a subject Bruce has addressed in numerous art workshops. In addition to his studies with Goetz, Bruce has been influenced by the great American tonalist painters, George Inness, John Henry Twachtman, John Fabian Carlson and Birge Harrison.

“The harmony, subtle color, value range and poetic expression of tonalist paintings are qualities I have strived for ever since viewing a Tonalism exhibition organized by Grand Central Galleries in New York in 1982,” Bruce said. “The painting, Landscape with Avenue of Trees, by Eduard Steichen in that exhibition has been a significant influence through the years.”

Bruce notes, “For me, the challenge of painting is to set the mood of the scene through close values, color, temperature, form and edges, all working together in harmony to convey that mood to the observer. “Painting always has been important food for my soul, while banking has been my career.”

As a prominent local artist, with art continually on view at the Howell Gallery, Bruce has won numerous significant awards, many of them from the Oklahoma Art Guild. He also has won awards from the Plein Air Painters of America and the Scottsdale Artists School.

In 2006, he received the prestigious Oklahoma Governor’s Arts Award and had a retrospective of his paintings in the Governor’s Gallery. In 2011, he was commissioned to paint a large landscape for the Oklahoma Judicial Center’s Great Room, depicting Oklahoma’s lakes and a large still life to honor the late Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Marion Opala. The painting now hangs in the Judicial Center.

Considering the magnitude and prestige of showing at the Salmagundi Club, Bruce called the experience “Awesome.”

He said, “To have master artists, Christensen and McGraw, involved is like being anointed by the National Academy of Art. In many ways, this show puts a stamp of ‘professional’ on my art career.”

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