Paul Moore, artist-in-residence, and professor of figurative sculpture at the University of Oklahoma, is the recipient of the nation’s most prestigious award for sculpture in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the art form.
The National Sculpture Society will present Moore its Special Medal of Honor at its annual conference, summer 2021. Throughout the society’s 127-year history, only 45 special honor awards have been given to accomplished artists, architects, historians, and philanthropists. Moore will be the 28th artist to receive this award, joining past recipients such as Daniel Chester French, who created the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and Paul Manship, renowned for his sculpture of Prometheus in New York's Rockefeller Center.
“For decades, Paul Moore has brought our state’s history to life through his breathtaking bronze works of art.” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “At OU, he has immortalized some of our university’s most iconic figures, which will stand sentinel on our campus grounds for generations to come. He is incredibly deserving of this prestigious honor.”
Over the past four decades Moore has produced awe-inspiring bronze sculptures that stand gracefully and thoughtfully in museums; in private, international, and corporate collections; and at universities and memorials around the world.
As OU artist-in-residence, Moore has sculpted many prominent works across the university, including the sculpture of President George Lynn Cross in front of Evans Hall and the Seed Sower statues featured on all three of OU’s campuses.
Outside the university, Moore’s Achievements culminated in the completion of his 20-year masterpiece project, the Oklahoma Centennial Land Run Monument.
The Oklahoma Centennial Land Run Monument was finished in 2019 and commissioned by the State of Oklahoma, the federal government in the City of Oklahoma City, the monument commemorates the 1889 opening of unassigned lands in Oklahoma territory. One of the largest free-standing sculptures in the world, the action-packed composition creates a theatrical sense of drama that depicts the settlers racing across the land, through water, to forge their future on the prairie. The immense scope of work, with spectacular detail, stands 365 feet long with 45 bronze life-and-a-half-size elements in Bricktown in Oklahoma City.
His statues can also be seen throughout the state, including the state capitol. Nationally, his work may be seen in the U.S. Capitol Collection, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Brookgreen Gardens Collection, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, to name a few.
A fifth-generation Oklahoman, Moore has created an astounding 155 commissions to date honoring Native American people, military and service leaders, great artists, and historic events. His work is in constant demand for portrait and monumental commissions.
Moore began sculpting in high school. His inspiration for Western art derived from a visit to the Western Heritage and Cowboy Museum of Art and the book Bronzes of the American West.
At age 20, he began sculpting professionally. In his early years as a budding artist, he knew working with the process of creating a bronze sculpture would make him a better artist. He worked for foundries in Montana and Santa Fe, New Mexico, to learn the highly technical multifaceted process of taking a clay sculpture and turning it into the final bronze art. This vital knowledge gave Moore the ability to complete many of the steps in-house to create not only a bronze sculpture, but an expensive monument, something very few sculpture artists do.
His heroes were his teachers and they pushed him to excel. American artists that inspired Moore are Chuck Jones, creator of the Warner Bros. Cartoons on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts; Neil Estern; and George Carlson. To honor Jones, Paul created a portrait of Jones with his characters, which now resides in the Smithsonian's permanent collection.
Moore’s studio is part working area and part collection/memorabilia. Located in Norman, Oklahoma, the studio houses some of his award-winning sculptures, including The Buffalo Jump, The Stickball Game, Losing the Topknot and The Ghost Wrestler. There are maquettes, initial sculptures that demonstrate the beginning story; mementos from other famous sculptors; historical relics and a collection of books on American Western art, famous sculptures in history of the American West.
For over 40 years, at times working 14 to 16 hours a day for seven days, Moore strove to complete commissioned pieces. In each bronze sculpture, a surprising amount of human handwork is involved. The process itself involves many painstaking hours sculpting on, under and over a vision, laying on clay, adding texture and dimension, telling this story.
One of Moore's masterpieces is the commissioned monument On the Chisolm Trail. With the dedication and enthusiasm of a master sculptor, Moore worked tirelessly for two years to create the massive and realistic image honoring the spirit of a bygone era. Standing at the entrance of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, Oklahoma, this impressive work of art stands nearly 15 feet high atop an immense base and stretches 35 feet across. The monument is a tribute to the American cowboy, a pioneer, as Moore is himself; the sculpture is a “relief to fully dimensional” style work of art that has become his trademark.
As artist-in-residence at the OU School of Visual Arts, Moore teaches a course in figurative sculpture. In addition, he connects students to professional artists with similar styles. Moore said, “Having a mentor helps a budding artist tremendously.”
Throughout his career, Moore has won numerous awards, including four Anne Marion Best of Show Awards, four Gold Medals for Sculpture, five Silver Medals for Sculpture, the Stetson Award and two Ray Swanson Memorial Awards at the annual Cowboy Artists of America Show. He also has won the Gold and Silver Medals for Sculpture, the Leonard J. Meiselman Award, the Margaret Hexter Prize, and the Fine Art Connoisseur Award at the Annual National Sculpture Society Exhibition. In 2020 he won the Briscoe Western Art Museum’s Purchase Award and the James Bowie Best-in-Show Sculpture Award.
2019 was a monumental year of recognition for Moore. At the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum's Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition, Moore won the Robert Lougheed Memorial Award for best display of three or more works and the Prix de West 2019 Purchase Award. The Lougheed Award is voted on by other artists in the exhibition. His submission of bronze art included The Procession, Yaqui Deer Dancer, Navajo Country, and The Wood Gatherers. Moore also won the top prize, the Prix de West 2019 Purchase Award, for his bronze The Procession, a large bronze relief of a Pueblo religious Christian procession. This honored sculpture is part of the museum’s permanent collection. In addition, he received the Governor’s Commendation by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt for the completion of the Oklahoma Land Run Monument.
Oklahoma City mayor David Holt designated Feb. 18 as “Paul Moore Day,” a recognition that will continue annually.
Other honors and recognition highlights include an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his documentary “Paul Moore: Monument Man” that aired on PBS/OETA, and in 2013 he was the recipient of the Oklahoma Governor’s Arts Award.
His current work includes an art altar piece titled The Holy Trinity, composed of polymer, wood and paint.
Not planning to slow down anytime soon, Moore will exhibit new work in four upcoming shows in 2021. In the future, he would like to create a monument honoring the Native Americans’ “Trail of Tears” journey.
Grand sculptures created by Moore have touched the lives of thousands, honored Native Americans, veterans, U.S. residents, and state and national leaders. He has told important stories of historical events.