Artist returns to Enid to exhibit 51 paintings at NOC Enid

Enid native and former Phillips University art department chairman Jim Bray talks in the Marshall Building on the NOC Enid campus after hanging his art Monday. (Jordan Miller / Enid News & Eagle)

Enid native Jim Bray’s art will decorate the Marshall Building on the Northern Oklahoma College Enid campus through June 22.

Bray, formerly the art department chairman at Phillips University, hung up 51 pieces of art in room 101 of the Marshall Building. The pieces on display include “magnificent diagonals” of mining sites in Colorado and Webb City; Bray’s "vanishing landscapes" collection of rural areas; and pieces of his that have been displayed worldwide.

The paintings are being displayed in time for the Phillips University Alumni and Friends Association annual reunion June 21-22, said Leslie Klamm, board member of Phillips University Alumni & Friends Association. They will be open for viewing and purchasing 4-6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and June 18-20, and there will be a reception for Bray 10-11:30 a.m. June 22.

Currently residing in Joplin, Mo., Bray said he has been painting for about 70 years and is honored by the opportunity to exhibit his art at his former university; however, it feels like a “mixed bag” coming back to Enid.

“I was born here, I grew up here, and I had been trying to get my relatives to move out of Enid. There was no future,” Bray said. “Those feelings change, and now I’m looking for a small community to live in.”

After graduating from Phillips in 1957, Bray started his career as a graphic designer and illustrator at Hallmark in Kansas City, and returned to Enid in 1966 to help Phillips start up a graphic design program. Bray planned on only taking a year long leave of absence from Hallmark while at the college, but he stayed at Phillips for 28 years.

While there, Bray was able to take students on trips to Sweden, Russia and other areas across Europe. He even was able to attend the 1977 Nobel Festival in Stockholm while teaching abroad.

Margaret Moss, a local artist and curator, aided Bray in hanging up his artwork in the building Monday. Moss said Bray continued to have exhibits in Enid even after leaving the university in 1994, and decided to exhibit his work in Enid out of all the other places he visited as an artist.

“Jim Bray has traveled all over the silly world,” Moss said. “He took students from Phillips University on trips all over ,and (he returned) to this part of the world to decide that the vanishing landscape was important for him to paint.”

Moss said that because of Bray’s vanishing landscapes paintings, she often notices similar scenes on her drive from Enid to Kansas to visit her brother’s farm.

“Our culture is shifting,” Moss said, “and when you look at the paintings Jim has, he is documenting this shifting culture. Away from rural farm life, and towards the mechanized.”

Bray moved to Missouri Southern State University in 1994 as a department administrator, but he retired in 2004 after he was diagnosed with cancer. After going through cancer twice, he said the paintings in the exhibition “are a result of getting through the hard times.”

“They’re therapy paintings,” Bray said. “I have painted through those times and it was exciting to be at the easel doing this stuff, and I couldn’t do anything else really.”

Bray said his favorite painting in the collection is one of a Santa Fe train engine, because as a child he used to deliver the morning newspaper to the train’s engineer when he honked at him on his paper route.

“These are pretty good memories for a painter,” Bray said, “You don’t forget that, I didn’t paint that at Phillips, I painted it 25 years later.”