Profile: Curator heather ahtone (1 of 2)

After the Momentum OKC exhibition was long over, I had a great lunch with curator heather ahtone (as you will see, she eschews capital letters, I’ll let you ask her about that). We talked at length about the experience for her curating the exhibition.

She was moved by the experience and found so much of the work memorable. I was amazed at how she is so incredibly thoughtful about the artists. She was struck, as am I, by the widely varying perceptions of artists who entered. In fact, she was accosted by several artists during the opening. So, I asked her to respond to a few questions in detail to give a behind-the-scenes curator point of view on the show.

ahtone worked with emerging curator romy owens to pick three Spotlight projects by artists who received cash awards and their guidance for three months. Then they selected the final exhibition of about 200 pieces from an open call that received over 400 submissions. (romy and heather were meant to be together as romy too eschews capital letters!)

I’ll split up heather’s responses into a few topical headings. Check out these videoed interviews of heather and romy for more information.

heather ahtone: Thanks for giving me a chance to encourage young artists in their work. We have such a vibrant and creative community, but I know the experience of artistic competition can be very daunting. I very much want to share some thoughts and appreciate your interest in printing them for the artists to read.

Julia Kirt: What was it like reviewing proposals for Momentum Spotlight? What mental process do you go through looking at them, then picking?
ha: There were so many quality proposals for the Momentum Spotlight that this took a considerable amount of time and consideration to choose the three awardees by both romy and I. I remember that we both carefully spent time with each application packet. We did this separately so that we could really look with our own eyes at our own pace.

Then we made a list of all the applicants and went through that list, identifying the strength of the whole application and any apparent weaknesses. We created a short list of the strongest applications, I think there were 8 or 9 at this point, and then deliberated to the final choice. I believe the strongest applications included a clear written description of the concept, visual references (images of previous work and sketches for the proposal), and enough documentation/material to compel us to believe the artist had the capacity to execute the proposal. This last point was really important as some of the proposals were exciting but it was difficult to be sure the artist could execute the concept because of the lack of documentation.

Then finally we considered if there was room for romy and me to participate as curators in the work process. Some of the works were clearly already finished in the artist’s mind and our role as curators would have served only to make the award decision. We both wanted to support artists who were extending themselves creatively, to encourage them to take risks, and to provide an opportunity for young artists to do so with the financial support of the award. I don’t know if all curators want that kind of hand in the process – not to direct the work, but to interact in the process – identify risks and pose questions. We did and the artists we chose embraced us in the process and I believe that we all benefited from the process. and most importantly, I think they all succeeded in fulfilling their own visions.

JK: How is it similar or different looking at the actual work when there were over 400 pieces submitted for Momentum?
ha: EXCITING, EXHILARATING, OVERWHELMING. Walking into the dark and dingy Momentum site and seeing all the work leaning against the walls, on the tables and standing on that nasty floor was like walking into some kind of Tim Burton set… you know magic is going to happen but the rawness was still quite sharp. But the presence of the work in that space was the beginning of the transformation and it was absolutely fabulous to see so much GREAT work.

As to the selection, this process was different from the Spotlight, because the work was completed. independently, romy and I walked through the space looking without making judgment to just see what was there and just to enjoy everything – selfish perhaps, but we knew it wasn’t all going to stay and there is just that moment when it is all fresh that is very exciting and exhilarating. then we started the difficult process of eliminating.

For Momentum, it took four successive passes. Each pass became more difficult but we basically considered the following on each pass: sheer creativity, overall concept, presentation, and always technical handling. the last pass was painful for us both because everything at that point was FABULOUS, but there is the practical limit of what can actually be hung and lit properly, so we walked through and made choices of work that otherwise would have been in the show.

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24 Works on Paper Artists: Trent Lawson

To give insight into the works included in the 24 Works on Paper exhibition, Ryan Pack has interviewed some of the participating artists about their work in the show. The exhibition continues through August 8 at IAO Gallery, 811 N Broadway in downtown OKC. It will then travel the state for a full year.

Trent Lawson

Would you care to tell us about the technique you used for your piece? And why the technique appeals to you?
A certain amount of my process is left up to chance. I use a kind of brittle gesso, that when applied thick, will crack. I randomly create lines that become the basis for my imagery. The freedom of letting go and not knowing exactly what will come out appeals to me. For this particular piece, I put down a layer of gesso, and then placed cotton twine in that wet gesso. Next, I slung some thinned paint onto the surface, creating more texture. For good measure, I threw some salt on it to create extra little pores.

If you could write an artist’s statement for you piece, what would it be?
Now it’s time to analyze. I stare and turn and stare and turn until an imagery comes to mind; and I work to bring that out onto the piece. I enjoy texture and watching people interpret my work. A successful piece to me is when ten different people have ten different reactions to a piece.

Profile: Gallery Owner Tom Farris (3 of 3)

Artist and OVAC intern Kelley Lunsford interviewed gallery owner Tom Farris to learn more about his work, how he selects artists, and more. Farris runs Standing Buffalo Indian Art Gallery & Gifts at 106 E Main in Norman. The second (of 3) section of the interview is focused art Sales and the future:

KL: What impacts the sale of a piece of art?
TF: Find the right buyer. If you can find the right person who falls in love with the piece they’ll want to take it home. I’m always happy to make matches like that, to know someone is buying a piece that they will love forever is really fulfilling.

The artists who exhibit in my gallery are friends, some of them very close friends. I enjoy having that close relationship with my artists, knowing them well gives me more depth in the knowledge of their work. This allows me to be able to convey that familiarity to potential buyers, who I find, really enjoy knowing as much as they can about the artists and pieces they are collecting.

KL: What is your next big challenge? What’s on the horizon for Tom Farris?
TF: Right now my focus is maintaining the gallery, we’re still a young business and I’m trying to build and grow it into a long term fixture. In conjunction with that, I’m always considering new and unique ways to get people interested in Native American art, whether it be through events or different artists. And finally, my ultimate goal with this project is to create a viable market for Native American art sales in Oklahoma. So many Oklahoma Indian artists feel they have to go to Santa Fe to sell their work, I’d like to bring the buyers here, after all Oklahoma is “Native America”, what better place to buy Native American art?

24 Works on Paper Artists: Eleanor Davy Carmack

To give insight into the works included in the 24 Works on Paper exhibition, Ryan Pack has interviewed some of the participating artists about their work in the show. The exhibition continues through August 8 at IAO Gallery, 811 N Broadway in downtown OKC. It will then travel the state for a full year.

Eleanor Davy Carmack

Would you care to tell us about the technique you used for your piece? And why the technique appeals to you?
Periodically throughout my art career I have created a series of works on paper. For the last several years I have had this new series in my mind and only recently have been able to focus on them. I use an abstract mixed medium approach toward each work. I am continually creating images for my art in my mind. I usually am working on a series of paintings, such as my portrait paintings of artist friends, while I am creating my next body of work.

Do you listen to anything while you create your work? What inspires you (Be it art, music, books, movies, etc..)?
I start to work immediately on entering the studio. I usually put on a CD but never hear it end because I am so focused on my work.

Profile: Gallery Owner Tom Farris (2 of 3)

Artist and OVAC intern Kelley Lunsford interviewed gallery owner Tom Farris to learn more about his work, how he selects artists, and more. Farris runs Standing Buffalo Indian Art Gallery & Gifts at 106 E Main in Norman. The second (of 3) section of the interview is focused artwork selection for the gallery:

KL: What type of art do you display in your gallery?
TF: I display contemporary American Indian art, which, generally means, I don’t handle anything prior to the 1920’s. Before that time you get more into artifacts and items of material culture, which I feel should either be handled by tribes or museums.

KL: How do you select the artist represented in your gallery?
TF: I am very fortunate that the artists who show with me are also friends. I have been fortunate to be able to build those relationships over the years and when I opened my gallery I had a great core group of artists ready to show with me. In bringing in new artists, I really begin as a fan, I see someone’s work that I enjoy and I pursue them for a show or to join the gallery.

KL: The American Indian artists you represent are established artists working in their profession for many years. Would you ever consider a young unknown artist and why?
TF: I absolutely would pursue a young and unknown artist, and in fact I have already. One of the artists who exhibits with me is a graphic designer by trade and has always painted for his own pleasure. I convinced him to produce some pieces for a show and he sold out, and is now one of our most consistent sellers. I think that there will always be an appreciation for quality work, and part of my job is to find the people who are producing it.

KL: What advice can you give to artists who want a gallery to represent them?
TF: Get your work out there any way you can; do as many shows as you can, use MySpace, Facebook, etc. The more your work is out there, the more likely someone will see and be interested.

24 Works on Paper Artists: Don Emrick

To give insight into the works included in the 24 Works on Paper exhibition, Ryan Pack has interviewed some of the participating artists about their work in the show. The exhibition continues through August 8 at IAO Gallery, 811 N Broadway in downtown OKC. It will then travel the state for a full year.

Don Emrick
If you could write an artist’s statement for you piece, what would it be?
The work I’m currently doing with pinhole cameras is really nothing more than a continuation of what I’ve been doing with my fine art photography for twenty some odd years. To put the ‘why’ into words, or to even attempt that when dealing with a visual medium, would probably kill the creative aspect. When I photograph well there are no words going through my mind, just the images. Analysis comes after the fact, after the compulsion to photograph fades, as dreams do after waking.

Would you care to tell us about the technique you used for your piece? And why the technique appeals to you?
The photograph “Mannequin” is part of my exploration with pinhole cameras. This is the most basic of photographic techniques — using nothing more than a wooden box with a very small hole for a “lens”. The images have the qualities of photographs pre-1900: slightly soft, grainy, darkened edges.
And, very often, an eerie feeling.
There is something distinctly postmodern in using a pinhole camera and film. With digital images inundating everyday life, many photographers have been returning to older methods to reinterpret a world where new technologies are obsolete in a matter of months.

24 Works on Paper Artists: Betty Wood

To give insight into the works included in the 24 Works on Paper exhibition, Ryan Pack has interviewed some of the participating artists about their work in the show. The exhibition continues through August 8 at IAO Gallery, 811 N Broadway in downtown OKC. It will then travel the state for a full year.

Betty Wood

How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your piece?
Society has an influence on my art in that the public needs to be more aware of the implications of man’s use/misuse of allthe earth’s natural resources. The social implication is one of not only protecting the environment and its ecologicalconcerns, but one of creating an appreciation and preservation mindset in the public for the landscape.

If you could write an artist’s statement for you piece, what would it be?
An artist’s statement would be: As an artist, my interest in natural history, the environment, and its preservation, provides motivation for using nature’s discarded items as collectibles in my design process. An urge to collect objects is my powerful, inborn passion. My love in experiencing the elements of twigs, feathers, leaves, makes me become part of the natural world. My intent is to focus the viewer’s attention to this fleeting glimpse of nature as one travels thru the landscape. An unimaginable variety of colors, textures and combinations are presented as creative sources to the artist and observer.