SHAWNEE — From melting clocks and disfigured skulls to ethereal angels and fearsome creatures, an array of intricately bizarre images conjured by Salvador Dali veritably leap off the walls of the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art.
Almost as surreal as Dali’s signature style is the experience of seeing more than 140 works by one of the world’s most celebrated artists exhibited in a relatively small Oklahoma museum.
“Salvador Dali: not someone you see every day in Oklahoma, especially in Shawnee, Oklahoma. So, we’re thrilled to get to present his works,” said Delaynna Trim, curator of collections for the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art. “Everyone on staff has just been very excited about this exhibit. We’ve all kind of stood in awe in the gallery at least once, just being surrounded by all these pieces.”
Through Nov. 1, the museum is showcasing the traveling exhibit “Salvador Dali’s Stairway to Heaven,” which features the famed Spanish surrealist’s illustrations for two different books: “Les Chants de Maldoror” and “Divine Comedy.”
“It’s exciting … to have these complete sets. Usually, you see a few in an exhibit and that’s about it,” said Dane Pollei, the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art’s director and chief curator. “Not too many collections have that, so that makes it special.”
All the works in “Salvador Dali’s Stairway to Heaven” are from the collection of Park West Museum in Southfield, Michigan, which organized the exhibit. The Mabee-Gerrer Museum is the penultimate stop on the exhibit’s almost three-year U.S. tour, which ends in February at the Biggs Museum of Art in Dover, Delaware.
“The Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art is a remarkable treasure for the people of Shawnee and neighboring communities,” said Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples in an email. “For the museum to host an exhibition of works by an artist considered among the 20th century’s greatest painters is a testament to what has been achieved since our nation’s leaders first cast a vision more than five decades ago to give Americans in all communities access to the arts.”