The spirit of nationally acclaimed folk singer Woody Guthrie will forever rest in the halls of the State Capitol, Senator Charles Ford announced today. The portrait by veteran painter Charles Banks Wilson is the latest in a series of paintings commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc.
The portrait entitled Woody Guthrie - This Land Was Made For You And Me will be on permanent display in the rotunda of the State Capitol.
Guthrie was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1971 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. He also received numerous awards, including the Folk Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 and a Grammy from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1999. Guthrie’s music has influenced subsequent generations of musicians including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen and continues to be an inspiration to songwriters across the nation.
“When I commissioned artist Charles Banks Wilson, I gave him freedom to paint something or someone that depicted Oklahoma’s history,” said Senator Ford, President of the Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. “When I first viewed the portrait of Woody Guthrie, I was shocked and at the same time very pleased with the once again wonderful artistic expression by such a talented individual. Woody Guthrie did play a vital in role the shaping of Oklahoma’s history and it is only proper for his portrait to hang in the State Capitol along with other Oklahoma historical figures.”
Guthrie traveled the nation during the 1930’s voicing his political views through his songwriting, championing the causes of labor unions, and the plight of migrant workers and Dust Bowl refugees.
“Being a conservative from Tulsa, there are many points of Guthrie’s ideology that I may not agree with today. However, I am also very adamant about properly displaying Oklahoma history through art to further enhance the beauty of the State Capitol. This portrait achieves that goal,” stated Ford.
Woody Guthrie passed away October 3, 1967 after his battle with Huntington’s Disease. The ailment is an inherited, degenerative brain disorder that results in progressive loss of control of the mind and the body. Guthrie’s mother suffered and eventually fell victim to this disease when he was a young boy.
The Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA, www.HDSA.org) is working to increase awareness of this devastating disease and fund research into treatments. The artist of the Woody Guthrie portrait, Charles Banks Wilson, is donating his artist’s commission in the amount of $20,000 to the Huntington’s Disease Society for further medical research into this disease.
“There are approximately three hundred Oklahomans currently affected by Huntington’s Disease and many of them have not been identified. The contribution by Mr. Wilson will help to further facilitate the mission of the Society for the treatment of this debilitating disease,” stated Dr. Kenneth Hensley, President of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Huntington’s Disease Society. “The portrait of Woody Guthrie that will hang in the State Capitol will also serve as a reminder to Oklahomans how important it is to treat this disease that has robbed friends and family members and cost society one of its greatest cultural treasures of the 20th century.”
Artist Charles Banks Wilson is a native Oklahoman, whose work is well known in the Oklahoma State Capitol. He painted the four large portraits in the 4th floor rotunda, including Sequoyah and Will Rogers. Wilson met Woody Guthrie in New York City in the 1940’s.
The portrait is sponsored by Oklahoma’s largest weekly and third largest newspaper, the Oklahoma Gazette and their readers. The paper ran a feature piece on Woody Guthrie several weeks ago and has spearheaded a fundraising drive to raise the necessary amount associated to cover the costs of the artist’s commission, framing and hanging of the portrait of Woody Guthrie.
Woody Guthrie’s son and granddaughter, Arlo and Sarah Lee, performed songs written by the historical singer, songwriter and author including This Land is Your Land. Many other Guthrie family members were in attendance of the ceremony, along with Woody’s sister Mary Jo Edgmon of Seminole, OK.
This and other art commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. can be found on the Internet at: www.oksenate.gov.