The museum, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, will feature an exhibit of metal art by Gene "Ironman" Smith from Friday through Sept. 27. A reception and gallery talk will be from 6 to 8 p.m. July 29, at the museum, 801 E. Central. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Smith, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is an expert in the craft of metal art. Bornand raised in Sulphur, He now lives in Norman. His mother, Edwina Heminger, (Oglala Lakota) and father, Clyde Smith (Choctaw Nation) encouraged him to use his artistic ability to honor their American Indian heritage, said Bambi Hampton, museum director. She said he especially took to heart a message from his mother: "Respect the ones that came before you, and the ones that paved the way to where you are today."

In high school, Smith experimented with several mediums, and in 2016 he began his metal working journey. He spent time in commercial welding before transitioning into fine art. He feels "a special connection to feathers and this is reflected in many of the designs that emerge from his artworks," Hampton said.

Memories of his mother's stories led Smith to create his first life-size metal headdress, which he entitled "traditional" in honor of her.

"Each headdress takes him over one hundred hours to complete," Hampton said. "Gene heats the raw metal with a torch to forge it into shape, then he uses a grinding wheel to etch it with designs and details. Every sculpture Gene creates is unique, and no two pieces are alike. Gene feels his inspiration comes from visions given to him by those watching over him."

Smith has numerous awards and honor: First Place in 3D sculpture at the 2016 Artesian Art Festival, Sulfur; Celebrated Artist at the 2017 Norman May Fair, Norman; First Place in Sculpture at the 2018 Red Earth Festival, Oklahoma City; and First Place in Sculpture at the 2019 Red Earth Festival, Oklahoma City.

Smith's art is collected by individuals as well as corporate clients and has been displayed at venues around Oklahoma including The Corridor at Paseo, Oklahoma City; Exhibit C, Oklahoma City; the Cherokee Heritage Center, Parkhill, and The Firehouse Art Center, Norman.

The artwork featured in the exhibition may be purchased by contacting Gene "Ironman" Smith directly by email: vette8491@hotmail.com.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. All exhibits are free and open to the public.

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