Irene Gibson Hall, Garden
Eufaula, Oklahoma, 74432, us
About the Artist/Site
I first met Irene Hall in October 1970. My future husband, Cleve, drove me to Eufaula to meet her. I had known Cleve about seven weeks at that time.
Upon arriving at her house on Main Street, she greeted us and showed the new present someone had left for her. It was three cow skulls hung on fence posts in the back yard, not yet completely cleaned. While a little stunned, I was totally overwhelmed with the magnificence of her environment. There was the fabulous gourd tree, the skulls, the decorated horseshoes, and toys. Upon entering the house, assemblages were everywhere, mixed in with beautiful antiques.
She herself was a picture. Irene was almost 5 feet tall, with the tiniest legs, beautiful thick white long curls, and sparkly eyes. We visited, and then she invited me to sit down for a reading. She held on to my arms and foretold my future. As the next few months progressed, everything she had predicted became true. Not being a previous fan of fortune telling, I was amazed, and felt a little odd.
I married Cleve two years later, in December 1972. I had mostly seen Irene in Oklahoma City, where we lived, until then. Cleve and I had our baby in November 1974, and my relationship with Irene blossomed. I started going to Eufaula ten to twenty times a year. Whenever she came back to Oklahoma City with me, my son Anthony and I took her to all the thrift stores and garage sales to search for dolls and toys. Monkeys were her favorite finds. As Anthony grew out of his baby clothes, I would give them to her, and we would later find them on the doll fence. She admired my scarfs, and I gave them to her as presents, but they would never end up around her neck, but would become a dress or outfit for a doll. She would sew these creations and use paint to change items to become her own. After a few years her sewing changed to “tying,” due to her arthritic hands. Intricate bows, hats, dresses, and pants came alive through this use of strips of fabric. All of the packages she gave us were "dressed" in this same way. And each time I would go to Eufaula, I would become more deeply amazed with her abilities, and by her drive.
During adequate weather and good weather she was out every day. During cold and rainy weather she would stay in and prepare dolls and toys in Eufaula, or I would pick her up to work in Oklahoma City or to shop. She was an extremely hard worker, climbing trees into her 80s.
In addition to her art environment, Irene Hall was also well known for her psychic abilities. She would often tell us that Hop, her deceased husband, visited her while she was working in the yard on her art, and she would always tell him, “Go on now, I am busy, you will have to come back later.” She said she remembered having these abilities as a young child. She would be hushed by her mother when predicting "future" events; townspeople would come an hour later to announce the same event to the sewing circle, and it always frightened her mother. She often read for people who visited from Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, and received money for the readings. I was impressed that she would never put up with any degrading remarks about her abilities. She loved to read for my husband whenever she saw him, and she also read for me on occasion. Irene told me it would not have been an ability she would have chosen to have. She had seen sadness from it. However, I think she shared it whenever given the chance. She was widely known as the gourd lady who told fortunes, and later as the doll lady psychic. She had us call her Hickibicki for a few years, a name derived from her Creek Indian heritage.
As the years went by, she said she created every bit of the yard for children. I watched it change and grow during the thirteen years I knew her. She always told me I would have a home and food and everything I needed because of our closeness. She always called my husband, Cleve, her baby, and I would think she meant Anthony, my son, for a few seconds. She knew we loved her talent and drive and that we would do whatever we could to make sure it was preserved.
This woman was a driven force. She fought with her husband about the yard. He eventually moved out and up to my husband’s home. "He was not going to live with that junk," he said. I always found it interesting that Irene choose to decorate his grave with what he hated; I could never tell if it was spite or blind love. They were both eccentrics, he with antiques, a great intellect, Russian wolfhounds, and a Stutzs Bearcat automobile; Irene, with her psychic skill, and an innate ability and drive to express herself through visual art.
She was our guardian angel, and she wanted and allowed us to follow our dreams. She went to the club with long curls and a mink stole draping her pantsuits during her 80s and early 90s to dance to my husband’s bands. That mink stole would be thrown to me with the statement: “Hold this, I am going to dance.” She was an individual, and watching her you knew she was having fun. Her encouragement changed the other relatives’ unaccepting glances to a feeling that everything was going well.
We are now 63 and 66. It has been a 41-year marriage of needed self-expression. We started out doing this—for me since high chair days, and Cleve, at five, dressed in a suit and delivered to the courthouse steps by Granny to dance for farmers coming into town to do their Saturday shopping. Each morning as I put on her diamond ring I think of her. Cleve is working on his 58th band, and I am in my 62nd year in art. We carry on her lineage. Our granddaughter Sarah has been sitting in Cleve’s in bands since age five. I included a couple of Sarah's and our other younger granddaughter Lily's drawings in my last two art shows. I’m happy we are carrying on.
I loved Granny. She was someone who I respected and admired since the day we met. I am never without her memory.
animal skulls and bones, dolls, gourds, horseshoes
SPACES Archives Holdings
1 folder: clippings, correspondence, images
Map & Site Information
Eufaula, Oklahoma, 74432 us
Latitude/Longitude: 35.284328 / -95.582614
Eureka Springs, Arkansas