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Updated: September 6, 2022 @ 12:49 pm
Robert Peterson unveils his painting “Tomorrow’s SuperHERo” for Tiffany Roberts, a representative from the Philbrook Museum of Art who came to Lawton to pick up the piece for the museum’s permanent collection.

Robert Peterson unveils his painting “Tomorrow’s SuperHERo” for Tiffany Roberts, a representative from the Philbrook Museum of Art who came to Lawton to pick up the piece for the museum’s permanent collection.
It was a hot, muggy Oklahoma summer afternoon and Robert Peterson was sitting in his garage-turned-studio on the west side of Lawton with the fan on and the radio up.
Surrounded by finished and in-progress paintings, the artist was enjoying a day of relaxation, free from the pressure of artistic creation. His paint-stained table was stacked with vintage cassette tapes and painting supplies.
Peterson was waiting on an arrival from Tulsa, members of the Philbrook Museum of Art who were on their way to collect a painting the museum had purchased for its permanent collection.
The piece, entitled “Tomorrow’s SuperHERo,” is a 60-by-60-inch oil painting on canvas depicting a young Black girl posed in front of her family. It is an image that is typical of Peterson’s work. Peterson is known for this realistic depiction of Black families and individuals that reveal the softness and vulnerability of the lived Black experience that Peterson believes has been underrepresented.
“Oftentimes in the media, or in museums and galleries, when you see paintings that include Black people it shows them as the help, or doesn’t show them as a whole family,” Peterson said.
“Tomorrow’s SuperHERo” pushes back against the narrative of the Black “broken home,” according to Peterson.
“I wanted to show something different. I wanted to show the other side of that, that there are two parent homes where the mother and father don’t only support their kids, but they support each other,” Peterson said. “I wanted to create something that represented my truth.”
Peterson dedicated the painting to his daughter, who is one of his heroes.
“Ever since about fifth or sixth grade she’s been saying she’s going to have straight A’s and that she was going to go to college and either become a doctor or a lawyer,” Peterson said. “She just finished up her 11th grade year and she has a 4.0.”
Just as the girl in the painting represents the endless possibility that can come from the love of family, so too does Peterson see endless possibility in his daughter.
When his visitors from Tulsa finally arrived, Tiffany Roberts, the assistant registrar at the Philbrook Museum of Art who showed up to collect the painting, marveled at Peterson’s work.
“I love the colors in it,” Roberts said.
The museum purchased the work through the Taper Art Fund, according to Roberts, who said the work would likely go on display later this year.
After helping Roberts load the painting for shipment, Peterson gave the work one last nod before the door was closed. The next time he sees the piece it will be hanging in the museum’s permanent collection, where a little girl might be able to look up and see herself reflected, perhaps for the first time, in a place of power — tomorrow’s superhero.
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