Burgess and Paladine Roye:  Jailhouse Art

"Great work on an important project." 

Dr. Hugh Foley, Ph.D.

Professor of Cinema & Native American Studies

Department of Fine Arts

Rogers State University

Claremore, Oklahoma


The Garfield County Courthouse is situated in the heart of downtown Enid, Oklahoma. Constructed between 1934 and 1936, it consists of five floors. County offices and courtrooms occupy the basement and first three floors, and the fourth and fifth floors house the old Garfield County Jail.

The old jail was refurbished in 1966 and remained in use until 2005, with the opening of the new county jail. During those 69 years of service, it housed many interesting people and has its own colorful story to tell—literally! In 1976, at the Garfield Country Jail and Courthouse, ‘Jailhouse Art’ took a turn towards the exceptional.

Burgess and Paladine Roye, brothers from the Ponca Tribe, were arrested in 1976 in Enid, Oklahoma, for subsequent DUI’s and faced lengthy prison terms and hefty fines. Both were spared time in prison. Paladine was fined and his sentence was entirely suspended, as was most of Burgess’s. He was also fined and served six months in jail. In lieu of paying his fines, Sheriff McFadden made a deal with Burgess: If he would paint some art on the walls, he would talk to the judge and have his fines reduced or forgiven and would make Burgess a Trustee in the jail, allowing him greater freedom while imprisoned.  With pigments,  brushes, and concrete canvases, he paid his debts and gave the rest of us treasures of art on the jailhouse and courthouse wall.  The artwork Burgess made in the jail marks the first time he had painted with oil.

When Paladine heard that Burgess was painting on the jailhouse walls, he came to the Sheriff and offered to paint one of his own.

These Ponca Tribe members would go on to make names for themselves within the Native American art culture, their pieces collected throughout the world, except for the ones that are forever part of the old Garfield County Jail and Courthouse, which have remained silent and mostly undiscovered. Until now.

The seven one-of-a-kind works by Burgess (born Oct 30, 1944, in White Eagle, Oklahoma) and Paladine Roye (born Dec 8, 1946, also in White Eagle), painted directly on the walls of the old jail and courthouse, are gems from two Native American artists for the Jail, the city of Enid, and the State of Oklahoma and truly national treasures deserving to be curated and preserved for future generations.

Unless you were incarcerated or worked there prior to 2005, you have never seen most of them, let alone heard anything about them.

Six act as silent sentries in the old jail, and on the wall of the courthouse basement, one greets visitors who do not know the history behind it. All were painted directly on the bare concrete in 1976. They are the most hidden and unknown artwork of Burgess and Paladine Roye, done with a style that was not seen before now. We have not discovered if the brothers named or titled most of the paintings and the verbal history from some of those who worked there at the time does not include any information on that subject. 

Paladine’s work  depicts a buffalo and bear in conflict and represents the only known painting where he included both a buffalo and bear, let alone in conflict. He painted this piece outside of the entrance to the jail on the fourth floor, on the wall where booking photos were taken, directly across from the dispatch office. The old height markings can still be seen next to the painting. Three years after this, he began his professional art career.

The works of Burgess in the jail include: a maiden set against a beautiful turquoise field, painted just inside the jail entrance; one depicting winter migration and the hunting grounds; one showing the Cross with a fine penciled outline of the Savior; one of a portrait of a warrior; and one  featuring pots waiting to be used. The one large painting on the basement floor of the Courthouse depicts two warriors racing off to war, which he titled ‘Speeding Shadows of Another Time.’ Burgess signed and dated the painting and wrote a poem to go with the art, which is attached to the front of the painting and is shown in the video below.

The other pieces that are signed and dated are Paladine’s piece and Burgess's maiden and the one with the cross .  All of these are dated ’76 (1976), which agrees with all of the verbal and written history of the paintings in the jail.

Paladine’s painting was signed and finished by him on October 23, 1976. This is three years before Paladine announced that he would be painting as a professional. This is also the same day and year that the 6-month jail sentence given to Burgess was stamped by the Clerk of the Garfield County Court. October 23 is also the date we started this photographic documentary. We discovered all this on, you guessed it, October 23.

Thanks to Garfield County for permission and facilitation, this is the first time these historic paintings have been photographed without the protective plastic that has been covering them for almost 45 years, so that their beauty can be truly appreciated, and this is the first time they are being made available to the public.

Thanks to Deputy Dustin Musick for introducing me to this awesome art and history.

Thank you to Chairman of the Oklahoma Ponca Tribe, Oliver Little Cook Sr, for his enthusiastic support of the project. He was not aware of the jailhouse art until this project brought it forward. 

I have asked Chairman Oliver if there is any symbolism within the jailhouse paintings that would be specific to the Ponca Tribe and he said he didn't see anything that was, but the painting where the red from the cross goes to the tipi and church seemed to say to him that both the Ponca beliefs and Christian beliefs lead to the same God.

Thank you to Dr. Hugh Foley from Rogers State University, Claremore, Oklahoma for allowing me to use the audio of his 2014 recordings of the Ponca Indian Mission United Methodist Church congregation's beautiful singing of hymns.  The original recordings can be found on Dr. Foley's YouTube page. 

Thank you to Pastor James (Jimmy) White, Sr for also allowing me to use these recordings.

Most of all, thank you to Burgess and Paladine Roye for sharing their gift with the world.

Paladine Roye-Untitled

Untitled photo

The artwork above, painted by Paladine Roye, was painted directly across from the dispatch office in the old jail.  This is where booking photos were made of new inmates being brought into custody.  Notice the tape measure along the left side of the painting. 

The prisoner would have stood next to the height markings and his booking photo would have been taken at this spot.

Almost in the middle of the bear you can see what first looked like a crack in the wall behind the paint, but it turned out to be the right side of the paper measuring 'tape' that was glued or stuck to the wall.  Paladine painted right over the top of the measuring tape and where the paint is not very thick, you can see the outline of the paper when the print is viewed full size.

The concrete is cracked in places and the painting was stained and in need of some minor digital 'restoring'.

Burgess Roye-Untitled

Untitled photo

When standing in front of Paladine's artwork, you can also see this beautiful maiden off to your left, which was just inside the bars of the jail itself.

The metal washer seen at the top right and the burned/discolored areas are from when the jail was decommissioned in 2005 and a torch was used to cut the bars from the walls.  The heat from the torch fused the washer to the wall and painting.  Thankfully, the painting was not destroyed in the process.

The 'streaks' you can see in the middle to lower right are from a water leak in the ceiling.  We are not sure if the leaking water cleaned the parts that it flowed over or discolored them.  A very large concrete streak was on the face of the maiden, but incredibly it did not discolor or damage the pieceAt least not that we can see.

This is the most delicate of all the works in the jail and courthouse and is in a very fragile state.  Paint has begun to pull away from the concrete wall, large areas are stained and it is in need of a professional cleaning/restoration before it is lost forever.

This work has been digitally restored without taking away all of the wounds that time and progress have placed upon it.

When we first had the plexiglass removed from this piece we decided not to use hot lights on any of the pieces in the jail and courthouse.  What you see is what you get, with a little hanging of curtains to keep stray light and flares off of the paintings.  We were concerned that the close quarters and hot 1000 watts of light would be much too much for the delicate works.

All of the pieces below were painted by Burgess Roye.

Untitled photo
Untitled photo
Untitled photo
Untitled photo
Untitled photo

A special thanks to Galen Culver of KFOR Channel 4, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for his help in telling the story of this Jailhouse Art.

From Galen's series 'Is This a Great State or What?'

While KFOR mistakenly reported that Burgess and Paladine were twins (they were not), mispronounced Reese Wedel's last name and gave some booking misinformation, we do appreciate Gaylen taking the time out of his busy schedule to help tell the story.

You can click the link directly below which will take you to the KFOR video page displaying the segment or you click on the video itself right below the link. 


Burgess and Paladine Roye Jailhouse Art

Fine Art Prints

Historically accurate, fine art prints are printed in Oklahoma City. 

The paper used for the prints is the Hahnemühle German Etching, which is a traditional mold-made copperplate printing paper.  This white art paper made from 100% alpha-cellulose is characterized by its extraordinary velvety tactile feel and its fine, clearly defined felt structure.

The unique surface texture is a perfect fit for the Jailhouse Art prints that were originally painted on the bare concrete walls of the old jail.  The texture of the concrete has not been hidden within the paper, but highlighted in the most subtle way.

Scroll through the gallery below to select the prints you would like to purchase and then click on this link to make your purchase.  Prints are made as they are ordered, so allow 7-10 days for delivery.  Please describe which print/s you would like along with the size/s.  Shipping is free.

Jailhouse Art Prints

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