Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Happy 80th Birthday Wish to Harold H. Holden

H. Holden
We held hands and prayed.

Oklahoma's greatest Western sculptor was dying.

It was 2010. With one hand, I took hold of the artist's hand. With my other hand, I took hold of his wife's hand. Before I prayed, I looked at them intently.

Frederic Remington once revealed the secret of his art by saying, "the more I looked, the more the panorama unfolded."

The artist from Oklahoma who most resembles Remington is a man named Harold Holden. His family and friends call him "H."

I remember that day when we held hands and prayed because, as I looked at H. and his wife Edna Mae,  the panorama of God's beauty unfolded before me.

We were in H's studio in Kremlin, just north of Enid.

"H" and Edna Mae had asked me to invoke God's grace on behalf of H.

H. had a fatal lung disease. They were considering closing his studio at his doctor's suggestion and getting his "affairs in order."

But the three of us weren't convinced that God was through with H - yet.

So I prayed.

H. and Edna Mae have faith a deep in God. It's not the syrupy, slap-stick faith that you often see in religious institutions.

It's the deep, abiding faith that is "shut-up" in a person's private closet or personal dwelling.

It's real.

Just a few weeks after we prayed, on July 2, 2010, H. received a lifesaving single lung transplant at the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Center in Oklahoma City.

It's been 10 years since that day of panoramic beauty. H. will turn 80-years-old this Saturday, March 28, 2020.

Edna Mae was planning a huge party for Oklahoma's most celebrated Western artist and sculptor. But the Covid-19 global pandemic has altered her plans.

So she's asking people to write H. a note, letting him know how much he's been an encouragement to Oklahomans.

You may not know H. personally, but you know him through his art...


Wade and H - with "Thank You Lord" mold behind (studio)

Every time you enter the west auditorium doors at Emmanuel Enid, and every time you visit the gardens outside the Emergency Room of the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Center at Integris Hospital in Oklahoma City, you will see the six-foot bronze statue made by H. Holden called “Thank You, Lord.” The "Thank you Lord" statue is a self-portrait that H. created.

H. made this statue after his lung transplant as a visual demonstration of his gratefulness to God for His goodness. Every time I see "Thank you Lord," I am reminded that the English name for "God" is nothing but a derivative and contraction of the English word "Good." 

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.

Thank You, Lord, at Emmanuel Enid (West Entrance)

Will Rogers International Airport

Every time you park your car and walk into the terminal of Will Rogers International Airport, you will see H. Holden's life-size statue of Will Rogers. 

H. Holden's Will Rogers Statue at Will Rogers International Airport, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Enid Event Center and BOOMER

Every time you park your car and walk into the Enid Event Center, you'll see H's lifesize statue of BOOMER, representing those cowboys who rode their horses to "stake a claim" of 160 acres of land in Oklahoma during the 1889 and 1893 Land Runs.

H. Holden's BOOMER in front of the Enid Event Center

BOOMER also grace the United States Postal Office 1993 stamp (very collectible). 

The U.S. Postal Service 1993 Stamp "Boomer" in Commemoration of the 1893 Land Run

The United States Federal Marshall Museum

Entering Fort Smith, Arkansas, driving over the bridge spanning the Arkansas River, you will see H. Holden's life-size statue of Bass Reeves. The United States Marshals Service National Museum is in Fort Smith, and the story of Bass Reeves is motion-picture worthy. It is H. Holden that made the art that commemorates the greatest U.S. Federal Marshal in history.

Bass Reeves Monument, Fort Smith, Arkansas, the National Museum of Federal Marshal's (H. Holden Statue)
This is a bronze that H. finished after his lung transplant. It was my privilege to be there at the dedication and to meet the grandson of Bass Reeves, now a U.S. Federal judge. 

Federal Judge Paul Brady, Wade Burleson, H. Holden at the dedication of the Reeves' Statue (Fort Smith, Arkansas (2012)

Remember the TEN

Every time you walk into Gallahger Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma, you'll see H's work in the lobby with the moving statue Remember the Ten.

T. Boone Pickens commissioned H for a bronze to commemorate the 10 people from Oklahoma State University's basketball team who died in a plane crash on January 27, 2001

Remember the Ten, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma

The Cherokee Strip Crucible, Representing the Pioneer Families

Every time you drive by the Smithsonian certified Cherokee Strip Heritage Museum on Highway 412 in Enid, Oklahoma, you will see another bronze that has been sculpted by H. Holden. It represents all the pioneer families that settled the Cherokee Outlet in the Land Run of 1893. 

The Cherokee Strip Crucible, Representing the Pioneer Families of the 1893 Land Run

The Vision Seeker, Enid High School

H. Holden's second Native American monument is called The Vision Seeker. The statue depicts a Native American Plains Indian in full headdress, sitting cross-legged while looking into the distance as he ponders a vision. The original Vision Seeker is located in Altus, Oklahoma and was commissioned by National Bank of Commerce. The original was unveiled in May of 1996. The second casting sits outside of Enid High School and was placed at the north entrance in 1998.

The Vision Seeker at Enid High School

H. Holden has many more works of art, both public and private. His commissions include:

National Bank of Commerce
United States Postal Service
Oklahoma Arts Council
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
Oklahoma State University
American Quarter Horse Association
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Ranching Heritage Center
Ward Petroleum Company
Johnston Grain Company
Archer-Daniels Midland Company
City of Owasso
Air Force Association
Keystone Resort – Keystone Colorado
Hughes Drilling Company
Oklahoma Centennial Commission
City of OKC – Will Rogers World Airport
Oklahoma History Center
University of Central Oklahoma
Northwestern Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma Baptist University
Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association

H.'s great grandfather, Geoge E. Failing, invented the "bottle cap" that still sits on top of every glass beverage bottle. Every time I pop the top off a beverage or drive by a work of art made with the hands of H. Holden, I thank the Lord for His grace to H. and Edna Mae.

The H. Holden Art Studio is located in downtown Enid, Oklahoma, at 128 N. Independence. It's worth a trip to purchase some art from a man that is likely to be more known after the Lord calls him home than he is today. 

Tim Holden, H's son, is an exemplary artist himself, and Emmanuel Enid has supported Tim over the years as he shares the gospel of Jesus Christ through art to tribes that have no written language. 

H. - you've done well these 80 years. 

Happy Birthday to you!

And though we will not be able to celebrate with a large group of people because of this Covid-19 crisis, I'm inviting all those who've appreciated your art to wish you a Happy Birthday too!

80 is a blessed number.

It represents "superabundance" - and we pray this 80th year for you will be abounding in God's continued mercies and grace for you and your family.

Happy Birthday, friend! 


Edna Mae said...

Dear Wade,
Thank you for the beautiful tribute to H and for praying with me today. God did indeed “throw us a bone” in the depths of our despair and I am grateful every day.

Wade Burleson said...

You bet, Edna Mae! Wishing you and H a wonderful weekend as you celebrate H's 80th! Thankful for your friendship!

Jane Adams said...

H, I consider myself so lucky to have known you...even though it was just for a few years. Attending the art shows, spending time with you and Edna Mae, and looking at the beautiful bronzes that I have that were done by you keep you close in my heart. Your love and admiration for my sweet husband, Michael, meant the world to me. When he was suddenly called home to be with his Lord, you spoke of him during a dedication. He would have been so honored. I wish you a happy birthday, and I will pray for many more years of good health. I hope our paths cross again some day, my friend! Jane Adams

Jerry Blankenship said...

H, Your art means so much to so many people. It meant a lot to Carolynne and it means a lot to me, -- (SO DO YOU!!) Our house is full of your great bronzes and paintings, as you know, including "Hump", the first piece we got from you in 1973! You and Edna Mae have a great time celebrating your 80th! Proud to be your friend! Jerry Blankenship

Jay Coffin Failing said...

HT and me wrestled when I was preschooler .He was and is my favorite cousin. Always was special to us all, still is . took his God given gift and pushed it the limit, truly a great American Artist. Happy B Day HT. JJ

Debby Smith said...

H, Dean, Finis, and I are so blessed to know you. You are a remarkable man, and artist. Thank you for all you do for the western way. Hope your 80th birthday is as grand as you!

Troy Rigel said...

I worked at Johnston grain for many years and I always enjoyed all is art work the Meibergen family had on display around the office. I do agree his fame will only grow in the years and decades to come. well done.