Oklahoma City – Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) will dedicate “Downstream Drifters,â€ an impressive bronze sculpture and water feature that pays homage to Oklahoma’s historic cattle drives. A dedication ceremony is scheduled for Monday, June 17, 2019, at 10 a.m. on OCCC’s Main Campus.
The piece was created and designed by acclaimed artist John Rule, who has been fueling his affinity for western and Native American art and culture through his saddle making and sculpture artistry. For the past 15 years, the artist has created sculptures depicting western heritage, including “Downstream Drifters,â€ which was donated to OCCC by Jack Turner, a cattleman and longtime friend of Rule.
OCCC President Jerry Steward said, “We are very thankful for Mr. Turner’s generous donation of Downstream Drifters. John Rule’s work will be a fixture on OCCC’s campus for years to come.â€
The piece installed at OCCC is composed of four life-size bronze sculptures depicting a treacherous water crossing on a cattle drive. Cowboys would attempt these dangerous crossings when grass ran out or another herd of cattle approached. The four sculptures are arranged in a large elevated foundation, inspired by elevated foundations found throughout Europe, giving visitors a 360-degree view of the piece. The three longhorn steers are almost fully submerged in water, with a cowboy on his horse using a Houlihan loop to guide the animals to safety.
The Artist John Rule
Rule has been surrounded by art his entire life, as both his father and grandmother were
painters. At the age of 12, he won a state art contest for a wire sculpture he created of a horse. Rule began building saddles almost 50 years ago, which led to him opening a saddle shop in
Historic Stockyards City where he and his wife worked together for about 30 years. He has made saddles for the Oklahoma Centennial Horse Show and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Rule works out of his studio in Minco, Oklahoma, about 40 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. He has created several public art pieces, including bronze sculptures of both Bob Funk, founder of Express Employment Professionals, and W.P. “Billâ€ Atkinson, founder of The Oklahoma Journal.
The process Rule uses for his sculptures involves approximately 17 steps and can take upwards of six months to complete. For “Downstream Drifters,â€ each sculpture took about three months in addition to three weeks for molding. It took three to four months just to bind the sculptures together, meaning the total piece took eight months to complete. This is the first piece of Rule’s artwork done in monument size.
Rule said, “I told my wife I’m going to have to keep building saddles to pay for my sculpture habit.â€
When Rule begins designing a piece, he creates a layout composition to see what he wants to do. This involves making small-scale sculptures of the objects he’s creating. For instance, when making “Downstream Driftersâ€ the first horse was about 2 inches long and the steers were about half an inch long. He gradually expanded them up to life size.
The bronze sculptures in “Downstream Driftersâ€ are hollow, about three-sixteenths to one-fourth an inch thick. The hollow sculptures keep the weight and cost down. The horse and rider weigh roughly 500 pounds and the steers weigh anywhere from 200 to 300 pounds each.
Donor Jack Turner
Rule is drawn to the western lifestyles and describes cowboys as the true pioneers of the country. He shares this interest with Jack Turner, who donated “Downstream Driftersâ€ to OCCC. Rule and Turner have been friends for about 12 years. Turner is a third generation Oklahoman whose family settled in present-day Beckham County, Oklahoma, in 1898.
“My grandfather’s first trip to Oklahoma was in the late 1800s,â€ says Turner. “He worked a trail driver and helped herd 2,700 cattle across what became the state of Oklahoma.â€
Turner owes his passion for western heritage to his grandfather. The Turner family continues to own and operate a Hereford cattle ranch in Beckham County in western Oklahoma. Turner is a President’s Partner at OCCC, which is an exclusive group of donors who uniquely understand the vision of the college and stay up to date with college happenings. President’s Partners make a substantial annual investment to support the work of the college. The funds from the President’s Partners give the college the ability to respond to emerging opportunities.
The dedication of “Downstream Driftersâ€ will take place Monday, June 17, 2019, at 10 a.m. by the sculpture. The sculpture is located outside of OCCC’s Main Building on the northeast side. To view Rule’s artwork, visit johnrulesculptures.com.