Exhibition Review: Michael Eastman at OKCMOA

By Frances Hymes, OVAC Intern

A visitor is not always familiar with the museum they are touring or what work to anticipate from a newly introduced artist. The viewer must examine the work from the limited perspective of the image and title alone, without the knowledge of an artist’s intention.  It’s evident touring the Oklahoma City Museum of Art that Michael Eastman’s Faded Elegance photos are better viewed in person. Their large format gives the images a grand presence and creates the illusion of being these spaces of Havana, Cuba. The two pieces, Isabella’s Two Chairs 2000 and #167, Havanashare the common element of hanging clothes in their composition. There is a strong visceral effect standing in front of the decade-apart images.
Eastman’s #167, Havana photo of the exterior of a building is refreshing. The hanging linen look newly cleaned and blowing in the breeze. The composition is organic in the sunshine felt through the vibrant tone of the scene and sway of the clothes in the air.  It draws the viewer into Havana as if the scene were caught in a glance during an actual stroll through Cuba.  The photo is set off by the cool green contrasting with the natural light entering its outside space, not at all like the brown-beige interior of Isabella’s Two Chairs 2000.
Isabella’s is set in an open room where clothes hang symmetrically between a grand chandelier and the chairs below.  The centered colored clothes are a shot of life in the aged greenish interior. Their stationary position in the room adheres with the stillness of the room.   The clothesline they hang on runs out of the room leaving the viewer wanting to further explore the rooms it enters.
Eastman’s show is a step into Cuba for someone untraveled. His work takes the viewer on a personal trip to the interiors, neighborhoods and architectures of Havana. All are best appreciated in the large formats of their composition.  His twenty nine pieces are at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art through December 31, 2011.  Visit www.okcmoa.comfor more information.

Layers: 24 Works Artist Michelle Junkin

Interview by Katlyn Roberts, OVAC Intern
Michelle Phillip Junkin, Oklahoma Treasure:
A little bit modern & a little bit vintage, 
Mixed Media, 22” x 22”
What made you begin using the paint layering technique exhibited in the piece?
I read the book, “Rethinking Acrylics” by Patti Brady and was intrigued by the variety of effects that one could achieve with gel mediums and pastes. Soon after, I purchased a sample kit of Golden Mediums and Pastes. I spent days playing in the studio. I started making a batch of modern abstract Oklahoma landscapes. At some point along the way, I started adding words cut out from magazines. The process slowly developed from there.
Do you plan out the colors and concept of the layering before you begin or does the process evolve naturally? Please explain.
I always know my palette going into the creation of a piece.  I do not necessarily know the color that will be used to age / patina a section as the layers develop on the piece. I have found that the properties of liquid fluid acrylics are great for staining and often I apply glazes to give a “weathered” feel to the piece. This piece in 24 works is from the very early stages of the series.

In many ways, I was still adjusting to the learning curve of using the acrylic additives. Thus, the layering of acrylic paint and various mediums over the collage magazine scraps are an intentional decision within the design and layout of the piece. But, equally important, I try to keep an open mind as the medium layers interplay and build up amid the painted hues on the paper. Both then and now, I strive to let the piece have some freedom in finding its own direction while also staying on course with my own artistic compass intended for the artwork. 

The question is tricky because I find that I have to answer ‘yes’ to both. Yes, I know the general design, feel, layout, color combinations, and inspiration going into a piece. At the same time parts of the process evolves naturally because the layers within this piece are built around the unique traits of the gel mediums / pastes (such as absorbency or water repelling properties) and how they react to each other with the paint on paper.
This interview features an artist from the 24 Works on Paper exhibition, which is on display at Rose State College in Midwest City through December 14. A collaborative exhibition from the Individual Artists of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, this exhibition tours until September 2012. See more in the catalog and at www.24works.org.

Ideas Behind the Concept/OK exhibition

Last week we announced a new 2012 exhibition featuring Oklahoma artists, Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma. The exhibition is an open call survey of Oklahoma artists’ work along with extra components to encourage audience involvement and more attention for artists.
I want to give you some background on how we planned the exhibition. Since we are always striving to serve more artists and serve them better, we constantly assess how our programs impact Oklahoma artists. This is only one of the many ways that the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC) is trying to create opportunities for artists.
OVAC director Julia Kirt, curator Louise Siddons, 24 Works award
winning artists Romy Owens, Monika Linehan, & May Yang 
After several years of assessment and strategic planning, the Exhibition Committee decided to create a new exhibition opportunity. Many artists and educators served on the Exhibition Committee during the development of the Art 365 and Concept/OK exhibitions. Members involved at various points in the planning included: Tomas Batista, Elizabeth Brown, Stan Carroll, Jean Ann Fausser, Anita Fields, Sarah Hearn, Skip Hill, Jonathan Hils, Pam Husky, EK Jeong,  Jackie Knapp, Kathy McRuiz, Shawn Meyers, Audrey Schmitz, John Seward, Carl Shortt, Suzanne Thomas, Jeri Wensel, and Elia Woods. After several years of evaluation and planning, the committee introduced the new survey exhibition structure to the OVAC Board for approval in early 2010.

First, we assessed juried and curated exhibitions already taking place in Oklahoma, trying to make sure the OVAC exhibition does not duplicate other opportunities. We decided that we should focus on what could make the exhibition exceptional for the participating artists as well as the exhibition visitors.

24 Works exhibition audience
The committee emphasized increasing cash awards, growing the audiences, improving education for the community, and working with a partner gallery on a consistent basis.  We agreed we should highlight all artistic media and connect the artists more closely with curators. We retained the basic expectations that the exhibition feature living Oklahoma visual artists, be open call to allow anyone eligible to apply, involve national curators and not censor artwork.

A completely new component, the curator will pick up to 5 artists from the Survey entries to be Focus artists. The Focus artists will show a small body of work in tandem with Kansas City artists. The Oklahoma artists will then exhibit in Kansas City. The committee conceived of the Focus as a way to offer special awards to artists and more interaction with the curator and regional art community. 

Happy artists at the Art 365 exhibition opening
Another new element for Oklahoma exhibitions, two artists will be chosen for Residencies. Chosen from proposals, these artists will have longer to develop their work, which must engage the public. In planning, we decided Residencies would connect artists to the public more intimately. We hope audiences will learn more about the artists’ ideas and process for creation. Also, the Residencies link to the Hardesty Arts Center’s future programming. 

Since OVAC does not have a gallery space, we instead work with museums and art centers that have compatible missions to present the exhibitions. The new Hardesty Arts Center is a perfect partner for Concept/OK because of its innovative educational programs, emphasis on connecting living artists with audiences and wonderful new galleries. Watch for more about the Center in a future blog post or read about it on the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa website.

We are thrilled for the launch of Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma and hope the exhibition serves the artists and public well. You can read history of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s exhibition programs here. Exhibitions OVAC now coordinates include Concept/OK every two years, Art 365 triennially, Momentum OKC and Tulsa annually, and, with Individual Artists of Oklahoma, 24 Works on Paper every two years.

Visit www.Concept-OK.org for more details about the exhibition and call for entries.

Collecting Objects Drives 24 Works Artist Betty Wood

Interview by Katlyn Roberts, OVAC Intern

Betty Wood, Norman
Betty Wood, Quilt Fence, Etching, 22” x 28”
What was the technical process of creating this piece?
This was an etching done a zinc plate. The image was created by etching the plate with nitric acid. This involved several steps, blocking out part of the image with asphaltum and continuing to etch those areas I wanted to be darker. I also used mineral spirits, etc. The fence portion of the piece was done by using a mylar overlay made from a Xerox print, along with wild grasses. This image was etched on top of the background. The plate was inked with oil-based etching inks in three colors and printed on dampened printmaking paper, and run thru a printing press.
Could you further discuss how this piece “Comments on the relationship between nature and humanity?”
The urge to collect objects is my powerful, inborn passion.  My love in experiencing the elements of grasses and other natural elements, makes me become part of the natural world. The viewer’s attention is directed to the fragility of nature, its beauty, and preservation. The casual observer can find beauty in the most commonplace pieces of nature as the natural world is experienced. The relationship between nature and humanity are solidified as the environment is contemplated.
This interview features an artist from the 24 Works on Paper exhibition, which is on display at Rose State College in Midwest City. A collaborative exhibition from the Individual Artists of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, this exhibition tours until September 2012. See more in the catalog and at www.24works.org.

Speeding Glance: 24 Works Artist Jean Longo

Interview by Katlyn Roberts, OVAC Intern

Jean Longo, Oklahoma City
Jean Longo, Winter Morning Fog, Pigment print on Rives BFK 8” x 8”
How did you discover printing photos on watercolor paper?
I am primarily a painter, and I take photographs to use later as ideas or inspiration for paintings.  While working in OSU’s Art Department, I provided the printing for a workshop with Barbara Robertson, an artist from Seattle.  She requested Rives BFK as the paper for her workshop.  It was during my interactions with her that I began to think about printing my photographs on watercolor paper.  I felt it would help create the right mood for the images. Since I like building texture in my paintings, I had been trying to find a way to transfer that to my photographs, and I realized the texture of watercolor paper does create a greater complexity in the photographic images.
What interests you about the abstractions and textures of nature and have you always searched for that aspect of landscapes?
The affinity I have toward nature fuels my creative drive.   I am always intrigued by the surface of natural objects and the diversity of these surfaces. Yet, I am not one to paint exactly what I see; rather, I paint objects from a distance and add texture to the surface of the painting.   I have been approaching my landscape painting not with the idea that I am re-creating a landscape, but with the aim to express its essence.  The multi-layered paintings capture some fragment of the landscape, and the colors and texture aim to add a sense of energy.
My goal with the photographs for this series (Speeding Glance) was to remove the details, yet have them recognizable as landscapes.  I wanted to capture the essence of the landscape at a quick moment in time: that second when you see and recognize something without noticing the details. Sometimes a spot of color or an odd shape draws my attention to a particular place. With the Speeding Glance series, I would see a place that interested me, and I would come back to photograph it during the start or the end of a day when there was less light, therefore allowing the landscape to appear more abstract. To enhance this sense of abstraction I captured the images while driving, in an effort to make the foregrounds appear fluid.
This interview features an artist from the 24 Works on Paper exhibition, which is on display at Rose State College in Midwest City. A collaborative exhibition from the Individual Artists of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, this exhibition tours until September 2012. See more in the catalog and at www.24works.org.

Exhibit Review: Michi Susan at JRB Art at the Elms

by Frances Hymes, OVAC intern

Windsong 407-10 by Michi Susan. Image courtesy of JRB Art at The Elms. 

Michi Susan’s exhibit was laid out during the month of October in the home-turned-gallery JRB Art at the Elms. The familiar setting of a home is comfortable to enter and browse the all-accessible rooms. In the entrance room two wooden and metal figures stood at the heart of Susan’s show. The two figures placed in the room were submitted without titles and later named Dynasty Figures: Male and Female after their feminine and masculine shapes.  The two look like an aged couple visiting Susan’s show rather than a part of her work. 
On the three walls surrounding the weathered sculptures were hangings of Susan’s paintings and mixed media work. A small section dedicated to Susan’s Poem pieces were sparsely placed and numbered allowing the viewer to appreciate them individually. The Poem worksare not pieces of text, instead arrangements of color, symbols, and materials. Their earthy compositions enable a visitor to make poetry of their own. The pieces work as a muse to inspire the viewer with the internal words that come when engaging with them.

Like the Poem pieces the Windsong works are numbered. Viewed from the side I see how wind can movie through Windsong 407-10, and can imagine how it affects the look of the piece as it does.  

Susan’s pieces give the unique opportunity for visitors to interact with their theme rather than only appreciating the work put into them. Her dedication to art is felt through the room and carries into her many paintings and pieces of Windsong and Poem.  Susan’s work is represented throughout the year at  JRB Art at the Elms and can be viewed on the gallery website at www.jrbartgallery.com

Curator’s Perspective: Professional Development for Artists

Curator Shannon Fitzgerald discusses Art 365 artwork
placement with Liz Rodda & Frank Wick.

Independent curator Shannon Fitzgerald has worked with artists from students preparing for their first exhibition to internationally-known artists enjoying their museum retrospective.
Since Fitzgerald leads an Artist Survival Kit workshop on November 19, I wanted to revisit some past interviews with her about working with artists, studio practice and more.  She will share her experience as a contemporary curator, giving artists an understanding of professional development and mindful career steps.
Read an interview Fitzgerald about working with local artists, studio visits and her selection process for the Art 365exhibition in this Art Focus Oklahoma issue.  
See this blog post with her ideas about curators visiting artists’ studios.
The workshop, “The Artist & the Curator in the Studio: Professional Development for the Emerging Artist” will be held Saturday, November 19, 1-4 pm at Individual Artists of Oklahoma Gallery, in Oklahoma City. See more information or register here: www.artistsurvivalkit.org

Oklahomans Abroad: Local Scholarship and Art Making in an International Context

Southern Cheyenne Mocassins.
Cowhide, rawhide, sinew, glass beads. Early 20th century 

Welcome to new contributor Samantha Still, the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s Volunteer & Office Coordinator. 

Last May I completed my Master’s degree in Art History, with an emphasis in contemporary Native American art from the University of Oklahoma. Recently, I delivered a paper at the Native American Art Studies Association (NAASA) conference in Ottawa, ON Canada. At the conference I expected to meet other art historians from across North America. But what I didn’t expect was to meet an OU student with similar interests as my own, whose path I had never before crossed. John Lukavic is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology, who is particularly interested in the Cheyenne of Western Oklahoma. I learned that Lukavic is very much interested in applying art theory to his anthropological practice. How is Lukavic’s research relevant to OVAC? Well, Lukavic studies a group of art makers in Oklahoma, and is interested in developing a culturally specific art theory to the objects made by these fellow Oklahomans. So, OVAC blog readers, without further ado, meet John Lukavic:

SS: Why did you decide to study the Cheyenne of Oklahoma?

JL: Initially my research did not focus on the Cheyenne, but rather on the Indian art market in Oklahoma. I planned to study how non-Native consumer notions of tradition and authenticity differed from that of Native artists and Native consumers; however, as I focused my study, I limited my field site to western Oklahoma along the I-40 corridor and on the traditional arts for sale at tourist shops. I spent nearly a year collecting data on this topic, but once I began working with Cheyenne moccasin makers, my plans changed. The information I gathered opened my eyes to a complex system of cultural values in which Cheyenne moccasins circulate.

SS: In your NAASA paper you called for the development of a culturally specific art theory. Explain what you mean by this.

JL: I began my paper by explaining a deep connection between Cheyenne ‘traditional’ arts and orthodox Cheyenne beliefs. I argued that “in order to view it appropriately, one must understand the role of religious orthodoxy in Cheyenne arts,” and that “any art theory that wants to claim authority in addressing Cheyenne arts must…be guided by the views found in the communities from which they originate.” One cannot view art without a lens of interpretation, and to use a lens that dismisses the culture from which the art originates misses an opportunity to engage deeper meanings and is frankly disrespectful to those who possess an ideological system outside of Western Enlightenment. The idea that all art should be viewed from a single lens is a product of colonialism. Western Enlightenment, as I argue in my paper, “is insufficient for the study of Native arts,” and that “Native art theory must grow organically from Native communities and be guided by the role art has within each of these communities.”

Will you be my friend? Social networking for artists

For the 2011 Oklahoma Arts Conference, OVAC partnered with the Oklahoma Arts Council to present the Artist Track – designed specifically for artists to learn more about marketing their work. Our guest speaker Alyson Stanfield of Art Biz Coach led sessions focusing on marketing through social media.
Alyson Stanfield
Photo by Kimberly Lennox
As Alyson stated, social media is not to be used as a megaphone, blasting information to your readers. Instead, it is a tool for spreading your message but first you need a message to spread and you must cultivate relationships with people who want to listen.
Alyson outlined a Social Media Manifesto for artists. Here’s a brief synopsis.

1. Have fun! If you’re not having fun with it, odds are good nobody else will think it’s fun either. Keep it interesting to keep your audience.
2.  Engage. Don’t just blast a message. Engage with your followers and tailor messages to their interests.
3.  Listen. Pay attention to what others are doing on social media and respond when appropriate. People love someone who listens to them!
4. Be the thought leader. Why does someone follow you? They’re probably interested in what you think or what you have to say about art.
5.  Make it easy for others to talk about you. When creating social media posts, consider how they might be shared by others. When your followers share your posts with their friends, they are giving you a high recommendation. Make it easy for them! Make images available, include captions on your images, make your tweets easy to re-tweet, etc.
6.  Don’t build your brand on someone else’s platform. Social media tools are great for building audience and spreading your message. But, don’t forget that those sites (like Facebook and Twitter) are owned by someone else. You cannot control what they decide to do with their websites. Remember to build your online home base on a platform that you can control, such as a personal website or blog.

For more tips on the business of being an artist, subscribe to Alyson’s blog, Art Biz Blog at www.artbizblog.com

Be an arts advocate!

As an arts lover, you’ve probably heard that you need to speak up for the importance of the arts. But how? What do you say?
At the Oklahoma Arts Conference, guest Mary Kennedy McCabe, Executive Director of Mid-America Arts Alliance, spoke about the importance of communicating the powerful impact the arts can have on your community. Your elected officials are there to represent YOU, but they can’t do that if they don’t hear your voice.
Here are a few key points to focus on when contacting your representatives:

1.  Economic Impact of the Arts
For example, did you know that for every $1 in public funding to the Oklahoma Arts Council generates $8 in economic impact? That’s a good investment. (Source: 2008 economic impact study of arts and culture organizations in Oklahoma.)
2. Education Through The Arts
Studies consistently demonstrate the arts’ impact on education and overall student achievement. Students with four years of arts education in high school score significantly higher on college entrance exams than students with little or no arts education. Arts education has been shown to increase performance in non-arts subjects like math and science. Other proven benefits include an increase in school attendance and civic engagement, and a decrease in anti-social behaviors.
3. Community Development
Communities that offer vibrant arts and cultural amenities are more likely to attract young professionals, retain young talent, appeal to businesses, and provide a setting where people want to live and raise families.
To be updated on Oklahoma arts advocacy alerts, sign up for the Oklahomans for the Artsmailing list. For updates on national issues, sign up for the Americans for the Arts Action Fund.