The WFMA is excited to announce that you can now listen to The Vault Unlocked on our website. These podcasts hosted by Todd Giles will take you inside the WFMA's collection vault to learn more about the art inside, because getting to know more about art helps us better know ourselves. Todd is an professor of English at MSU Texas, where he teaches and writes about American literature, art, film and culture.


Featured this month!


Robert Indiana

The Figure Five (From Decade Portfolio of ten prints), 1971

Signed, dated and numbered in pencil 58/200
Published by Multiples, Inc., New York & Los Angeles

Museum purchase assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1975

Robert Indiana’s The Figure Five is easily one of the most enigmatic artworks in the WFMA’s permanent collection. Even without an understanding of the multiple allusions in the work, one can still enjoy its many geometric shapes, bold lines, bright colors, oddly paired three-letter words, and that strange triad of floating number fives, which seem to add a certain perspective and depth to an otherwise flat image. Add to these things Indiana’s self-lineage-making, and The Figure Five takes on a multitude of art-historical, autobiographical, and extra-literary meanings. We’ll explore those things here. 

Read Robert Indiana


The Vault Unlocked Archive

Listen and read past episodes of The Vault Unlocked.


John Hill after William Guy Wall

The Hudson River Portfolio, 1820-1825
Engraving, hand-colored aquatint

Museum purchase, 1975-1992

Representations of the American landscape from the mid-1700s to the early 1800s tended to be documentary rather than artistic in style, focusing primarily on topographical views of towns and harbors. From there, artists’ attention turned to the distinctive landscape of the Eastern United States. Join host Todd Giles as he travels the 212 miles of the Hudson River by reflecting on the works of Joshua Shaw’s Picturesque Views of American Scenery (1820) and William Guy Wall’s The Hudson River Portfolio (1820–1825), both comprised of etchings by John Hill.

The Hudson River Portfolio from the WFMA's Permanent Collection is currently on display in the exhibition, Wilderness Passing: The Hudson River Portfolio, 1820–1825.

Read The Hudson River Portfolio



Currier & Ives

The Darktown Fire Brigade—All on Their Mettle, 1889

Gift of Dr. Joseph Knapp, 1981

Works of art can be beautiful and unifying, capturing the best of what it means to be human; likewise, they can also be downright ugly and disagreeable. With time on our side, sometimes we see art very differently through our eyes than those of its original viewers. The important thing is that art makes us (re)consider our preconceived notions of self, our national identities and histories, and what it means to be human.

The Darktown Fire Brigade—All on Their Mettle is currently on display in Visual Voice: Who Controls Black Representation?, open until February 3. 

Read Currier & Ives



Paul Revere

Bloody Massacre Perpetuated in King Street, Boston on March 5, 1770, 1770
Hand-colored line engraving

Gift of Minnie Rhea Wood, 1979

All art—whether literature, music, film, painting, printmaking, etc.—is always part-and-parcel of the cultural and historical milieus within which it is created. Inspiration and creativity never operate in a vacuum. Some art is created to elevate the spirit, some to capture a particular moment in place and time. Some art arouses our sense of national pride, others highlight our achievements as a species. And sometimes art is even knowingly conceived of and distributed as propaganda. 

Read Paul Revere


Thomas Hart Benton

Haystack , 1938

Museum purchase assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1975

In much the same way that populist politics looks back at history through rose-colored glasses, so too does the popular art of the American Regionalists working in the 1930s and 40s. The artwork of Thomas Hart Benton depicts bucolic country scenes, Midwestern farming families, and characters from American tall tales and history. Benton’s Haystack (1938) reminds us of the earlier Jacksonian dream of individual yeoman farmers working the back forty before the age of large-scale factory farming depicted one year later in John Steinbeck’s novel of the Dust Bowl, The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

Listen Thomas Hart Benton Read Thomas Hart Benton


Arthur Davies

Against Green, 1924
Soft ground etching with aquatint

Museum purchase, 1978

How could someone whose own artistic style was stuck in the 19th century have such a large impact on 20th century American art? Where does Arthur Davies lyrical, delicate and mystical aesthetic fit in with the hard-edged angularity and intellectualism of modernism? And why does Davies use color when most artists of his era were still producing black and white prints? These questions and more are examined in this month’s exploration of Against Green.

Listen Arthur Davies Read Arthur Davies


Louis Lozowick

Luna Park, 1926

Museum purchase, 1978

Strap in for this month’s episode of The Vault Unlocked to explore Louis Lozowick’s 1926 theme park inspired lithograph, Luna Park. Lozowick, one of America’s lesser-known Modernists, brings to bear a variety of aesthetic styles in this fast-moving artwork to invite our eyes and minds to travel up, down, and round-and-round at one of New York’s greatest tourist attractions of the early 20th century, Luna Park.

Listen Louis Lozowick Read Louis Lozowick


Charles Sheeler

Industrial Series # 1, 1928
Museum purchase, 1977

This installment of Todd Giles’ The Vault Unlocked highlights a rare and important lithograph, Industrial Series #1, by Modernist Charles Sheeler. Though this print may not possess the more well-known traits of Modernism, Dr. Giles helps us understand the role of this painter, self-taught photographer, and avant-garde collaborative filmmaker through something new-Precisionism.

Listen Charles Sheeler Read Charles Sheeler


Mabel Dwight

In the Crowd (Faces in the Crowd), 1931
Collectors Circle purchase, 2021

Have you ever felt like you were just a face in the crowd? What does that crowd look like? Is it full of people connected by their similarities or separated by perceived differences? Grapple with these questions and more through the lens of Mabel Dwight's 1931 Lithograph In the Crowd (Faces in the Crowd) in this month's episode of The Vault Unlocked.

Listen Mabel Dwight Read Mabel Dwight


John Marin

Downtown, The El, 1921
Museum purchase, 1977

How can an artist capture the essence of their surroundings without getting trapped in the Mundane? This month Todd Giles explores John's Marin's unique approach to capturing both the exciting and mundane on the streets of NYC!

Listen John Marin Read John Marin



Armin Landeck

Rooftop and Skylights, 1969
Copper engraving
Museum purchase, 1972

Have you ever felt as though there was more to something than met the eye? Can a straight line be anything more than a straight line? Ponder these questions and more in this month's addition of The Vault Unlocked, exploring Armin Landeck's 1969 copper engraving, Rooftop and Skylights, alongside Todd Giles.

Listen Armin Landeck Read Armin Landeck



Reginald Marsh

Huber’s Museum, 1928
Museum purchase, 1973

Have you ever thought that only art could express life in all its complexities? Reginald Marsh may have agreed. His images of early 1900s New York City capture small moments amidst this teeming, ever-changing city. Take a 5-minute break to enjoy The Vault Unlocked!

Listen Reginald Marsh Read Reginald Marsh



Sedrick Huckaby

American Dad, 2015
Collectors Circle purchase, 2021

In observance of Black History Month, take five with Todd Giles in The Vault Unlocked! Professor Giles helps us muse about the human face and the artwork's title in a closer look at the print titled American Dad by artist Sedrick Huckaby.

Listen Sedrick Huckaby Read Sedrick Huckaby



Rockwell Kent

Self-Portrait, 1934 
Museum purchase, 1973

We're in for a treat this month! Todd Giles considers a compelling self-portrait by Rockwell Kent through the lens of Walt Whitman's poetry as both artists' search to know themselves. In Kent's intense expression, what emotions do you see? Can you relate?

Listen Rockwell Kent Read Rockwell Kent



Vernon Fisher

Scenes from the American West, 1990
Collectors Circle purchase, 2012

How does a painter make a print look painterly? What might the mind look like as it works? Learn about these points and more in this month's episode!

Listen Vernon Fisher Read Vernon Fisher


Childe Hassam

A Vermont Village, 1923
Museum purchase assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1975

We know about French Impressionism, but have you heard about American Impressionism? Why did Impressionist artists use so many marks? Find out with your host Todd Giles.

Listen Childe Hassam Read Childe Hassam



Sam Francis

Red Again, 1972
Screenprint on Arches Cover White paper
Museum purchase assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1975

What is generally the first thing we do when we look at abstract art? How did Sam Francis' experience of living in Japan inform how his art looks? Learn about these points and more!

Listen Sam Francis Read Sam Francis



Claes Oldenburg

The Letter Q as Beach House with Sailboat, 1972
Museum purchase assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1975

What happens when a sculptor makes a fine art print? What do we think about the letter Q turned upside down, as a beach house? How many ink runs did it take for Oldenburg to get these colors? Find out these details and more in this month's episode with your host Todd Giles.

Listen Claes Oldenburg Read Claes Oldenburg


Helen Frankenthaler

Lilac Arbor, 1970

Museum purchase assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1975


Listen Helen Frankenthaler Read Helen Frankenthaler



Louise Nevelson

Essences #6, 1977

Museum purchase, 1978


Listen Louise Nevelson Read Louise Nevelson



Jackson Pollock

Untitled (after Number 9), 1951

Museum purchase, 1980


Listen Jackson Pollock Read Jackson Pollock



Donald Sultan

Red, May 10, 2010, 2010

Collectors Circle purchase, 2014


Listen Donald Sultan Read Donald Sultan



Robert Motherwell

Roth-Händle, 1974
Aquatint and collage on Auvergne a la Main handmade paper
Museum purchase assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1975

Have you ever been given the opportunity to try a new way of doing things? What repercussions did stepping out of your comfort zone have? Explore Robert Motherwell's 1974 aquatint Roth-Händle, and see what's possible when you try something new!

Read Robert Motherwell



Edward Hopper

Evening Wind, 1921
Etching on Umbria paper
Museum purchase, 1972

Have you ever wondered why all your friends' careers seemed to be taking off while yours was at a standstill? If you answered yes, be sure to check out this month's edition of The Vault Unlocked. In his exploration of the life and work of Edward Hopper, Todd Giles explores Hopper's journey from painting to etching and back again.

Listen Edward Hopper Read Edward Hopper



Ellsworth Kelly

Blue/Green, 1970
One of Series of Ten Lithographs 
Museum purchase, 1972

Why does American artist and WWII Veteran Ellsworth Kelly use color and geometric shapes in his art? How is this art? Did Kelly's war experience influence his art? Learn about these points and more in this epidsode.

Listen Ellsworth Kelly Read Ellsworth Kelly



Jim Dine

Red Beard, 1973
Museum purchase assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1975

How did Jim Dine's childhood experience with his grandfather's hardware store impact him as an artist? How do hand tools and art tools relate? Learn about these points and more in this episode.

Listen Jim Dine Read Jim Dine



Lyonel Feininger

Street in Treptow, 1931
Woodcut on thin Mino Japan paper
Museum purchase assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1975

Lyonel Feininger set out to be a musician but fell in love with drawing while studying in Germany. Following a brief career as a caricaturist for various magazines, he began to create paintings, etchings, and lithographs during the proto-Cubism movement of the early 1930s. Learn more in a short, lively exploration of the life and work of Feininger with Todd Giles.

Read Lyonel Feininger



Mark Tobey

Flight Over Forms, 1966
Museum purchase, 1974

How is an artwork made, by whom, in what time and place, and for what reason? These are the questions explored by Todd Giles in this month's episode of The Vault Unlocked!

Read Mark Tobey



Philip Guston

Untitled (From Suite of Ten Lithographs), 1966
Lithograph on Rives BFK paper
Museum purchase, 1978

Why should we take the time to interact with art? What draws you to particular pieces, artists, and styles? How does art enrich our lives? Take a trip inside the WFMA vault to answer these questions and explore the life and work of Philip Guston in this month's edition of The Vault Unlocked with Todd Giles.

Read Philip Guston



Tom Wesselmann

Nude (for Sedfre), 1969
Museum purchase, 1974

Join Todd Giles as he reflects this month on a complex artwork depicting a female nude by Pop artist Tom Wesselmann. The combination of the nude female form with a time of radical social change and a Pop art style, now seen through the lens of our own time, makes looking at this artwork complex and perhaps emotional.

Read Tom Wesselmann



Jasper Johns

Fool’s House, 1972
Lithograph on special Arjomari paper

Museum purchase assisted by the National Endowment for the Arts, 1975


Listen Jasper Johns Read Jasper Johns


Alex Katz

Ada in Hat, 1990

Gift of the Blanton Museum of Art, 2018. Transfer from The Contemporary Austin, Camille and Dave Lyons


Listen Alex Katz Read Alex Katz



Lee Krasner

Embrace, 1974

Museum purchase, 1981


Listen Lee Krasner Read Lee Krasner


Chuck Close

Portrait/Scribble/Etching, 2000

Collectors Circle purchase, 2014


Read Chuck Close


David Bates

Untitled, 1991

Museum purchase, 2011


Read David Bates

Luis Jiménez

Border Crossing, 1987

Collectors Circle purchase, 2012


Read Luis Jiménez


Thanks for joining us as we unlock the vault at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas. 



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