3D Graffiti – Michael Sexton

Sculpture by Michael Sexton

 Born in California, Michael Sexton has studied painting, sculpture and carpentry across the country and has apprenticed with famed sculptor John Chamberlain in Sarasota, FL. Sexton turns his strokes in paint into tangible forms with his sculptures. “To the layman, I describe my work as 3-D graffiti,” Sexton says. With such fluid lines and dynamic shapes, it is no wonder this is the phrase used to describe his work. 

“[My favorite pieces] are my transitional pieces, every thing learned and applied to the form,” he says. Sexton refers to nature as the ultimate example of form, and it shows, as he enjoys working on his art outdoors. Enjoy the nice spring weather as you visit Sexton’s open-air studio and learn about his work.

Tulsa Studio Tour Artist Michael Sexton


Meet & see the working studio of Sexton along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Back Lit – Grace Grothaus

Grace Grothaus, A Minor Divergence, Backlit painting

Grace Grothaus received her BFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Kansas City Art Institute, where she studied with Jim Leedy. While there, she rebelled against traditional media boundaries and formed her work in the intersection of painting and digital media. A past Art 365 winner, and a Concept OK Focus Artist, Grothaus explores new territory with her back-lit paintings.

As technology shifts our media consumption from paper to electronic, so too does Grothaus’ art. “For better or for worse, we experience a lot of life through back-lit screens – our phones, laptops, and TVs,” says Grothaus, “Painting has always taken on the role of describing and commenting on contemporary life. Why then would painting not also take on this new visual language and become back-lit?”


This new visual language of back-lit screens is explored in her paintings, which employ organic shapes and varying opacities to create shadows and evoke the world we are surrounded by. “I create back-lit works that still follow traditional approaches toward painting, but they also take on a whole new set of techniques as well,” she says.


Tulsa Studio Tour Artist Grace Grothaus in her studio

Meet & see the working studio of Grothaus along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Connection to Environment – Richard Wills

Studio Tour Artist Richard Wills in his studio
Starting as a student in graphic design, Richard Wills stumbled upon printmaking, and found an instant connection to design and its roots in printing. “Printmaking draws me in because I love the process of making the plates and printing the image,” Wills said. His love of the process allows for him to “unplug” from the ever-present demanding technology in our day-to-day lives. In his studio he prints by hand, and with this centuries old craft, he connects to previous generations in his art making. He also experiments with different techniques in printing, such as making a print with toothpicks. 

Richard Wills, Are We There Yet?, Relief Print

 His art explores space and place, using images and ideas that reflect his experience of travels, and his connection to his environment. “Whether spending time in nature or walking through an urban landscape I have always found solace connecting with my environment,” he says, “Each way point I find along my path leads to new revelations in myself and in my creations.”

Meet & see the working studio of Wills along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Puppets – Mary Jane Porter

Puppet by Mary Jane Porter

A true Oklahoma native, Porter holds a BFA from Oklahoma State, an MA from the University of Tulsa, and has an extensive involvement in the Oklahoma art community, both as an artist and an art educator. She has taught at the university level in Kansas, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, and continues to teach through several organizations, as well as her studio where she gives puppet making and printmaking workshops. 

Tulsa Studio Tour Artist Mary Jane Porter in her studio with her work


She creates works that integrate several materials and media, including puppets made with found objects or paintings on loose vinyl, but she didn’t start out this way. When I was in undergraduate school the term “Mixed Media” had not reached the Midwestern art circles. Later on I was exposed to this art form and was encouraged by Tulsa artist and art director, Steve Ligget,  to explore it’s possibilities,” says Porter.

Her works, with their bold colors and complex characters, reflect her interests and curiosities, as well as her passions and her humor. The painting Meow-nah Lisa uses collage from the famous daVinci work combined with varying materials and loose impressionist brushwork to create a humorous image of a cat.  “My work reveals my interest in faces, faith, figures, and felines. I also enjoy expressing my humor as well as my serious side in what what I create. ,” she said.

Meet & see the working studio of Porter along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Joy of Process – Kathy Wills

Polymer Clay Jewelry by Kathy Wills

Growing up in her parent’s hobby shop, Kathy Wills’ mother sold dollhouse miniatures, exposing her at an early age to polymer clay crafts. She could not find her knack creating miniature food or kitchen items, but she found her niche with jewelry making. 

Studio Tour Artist Kathy Wills in her Studio

The process is important to her, as she can experience the joy of playing and experimentation with color, shapes as well as technique. Each jewelry piece is a one-of-a-kind creation, and her memories of a piece are not of the finished product, but of the journey of making. “The product is a happy bonus. I enjoy mixing color and shapes as well as experimenting with new techniques,” says Wills, “What is really more memorable to me is the fun I had in making it.”

“I love to use color and create bright, cheerful pieces,” she says, and indeed her work is full of vivid colors and bold shapes. However, her technique is anything but simple. Wills uses complex processes to mimic natural materials, such as turquoise.  The realm of possibilities with polymer clay is endless and Kathy considers herself in a state of perpetual learning.

Meet & see the working studio of Wills along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Craft and Play – Andrew Storie

Tulsa Studio Tour Artist Andrew Storie in his studio

Andrew Storie is the Preparator and Gallery Tech at Tulsa’s new Hardesty Arts Center, and though he started with a career in graphic design, Storie continued to hone his skills and creativity in sculpture. A background as a commercial artist led him to favor works that exemplified expertise. “I am interested in concept, craft, and presentation in my work,” Storie said, “I like functional and form oriented works in almost equal measures.”

Sculpture by Andrew Storie
His interest in craft and presentation, combined with his tendency towards functional objects, leads his sculptures to have a quality of play and interactivity. “I find a great deal of interest in playing and I encourage people to play with the “toys” I make”, he says.


His wood-hewn masks evoke an eastern aesthetic, sometimes investigating Japanese mythology; while his sculptures seem to recall an era gone by, when toys were hand-built by artisans. He enjoys involving viewers through interaction, granting them a vehicle to create alongside him. “In a way it allows me to play with all the other kids,” says Storie. 

Meet & see the working studio of Storie along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

From Design to Raw Creation: Nicole McMahan

Tulsa Studio Tour Artist Nicole McMahan in her studio.

Inspired by her carpenter father, Nicole McMahan uses installation art and furniture design to take her from the technology of design into raw creation. Her new work combines her interest in patterns with her connection to wood through bright colors.

McMahan has her BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Tulsa, and has her own design studio, look ma! creative, where she has designed publications for organizations like Living Arts of Tulsa. Graphic design is about solutions,” she says, “The challenge to solve what begins as a thought and create a visual piece from that is very satisfying to me. I love the process from start to completion. And I love generating ideas; not just new ideas, but also improving on ideas.”

Nicole McMahan, Trailer Park Tongue/no. 01/Home, circa 1977, Mixed Media, 36x40x36

With her background in design, her primary work is in print media, but she explores and incorporates painting, furniture design and installation. “The tangible outcomes of both design (printed piece on paper) and other media (installations, furniture, mixed media) give meaning to my work and tremendous satisfaction,” says McMahan.

She has exhibited in OVAC’s Concept/OK with an installation based in trailer park culture titled Trailer Park Tongue/no. 01/Home, circa 1977. “This piece began as a very conceptual idea that I was unsure of in its final form,” says McMahan. “Instead, I approached it as a personal work for myself, yet it turned into an engaging piece for others to formulate their own ideas and thoughts”

Her studio is decorated with a wall mural drawn by her own children, a must see for any visitor. 


Meet & see the working studio of McMahan along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio Tour. For more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Fantastical Fashion – Valentin Esparza

Val Esparza, Empire in Denial, Palm Leaves, Cotton, Canvas Dress,  60″x42″x2″

Valentin Esparza started creating his art “by accident,” as he says, at a friend’s sewing party. 

“I made a bag with this fabric I found at Living Arts and fell in love with, and continued making bags. Eventually it escalated into dresses,” says Esparza. Since then he has fallen in love with sewing and textiles, creating alternative fashion pieces that seem like costumes from fantastical plays. 

 “Often I will grow completely obsessed with the score of a film or an artist and focus on designing with a certain character in my head that goes with the music. The fashion shows are developed like scenes in a play,” he said. His avant-garde fashion is sometimes created with non-traditional elements, such as tree bark or bullets. 

Tulsa Art Studio Tour artist Valentin Esparza, in his studio 
Esparza also designs t-shirts, and creates original screen printed shirts. Refusing to design for the sheer sake of putting out products, he creates works inspired by his environment in Tulsa for his production line of T-Town Teez. His large studio is not only his production house for his fashion and art, but also a place of learning, where he leads workshops with youth on the process of screen-printing. 

Meet & see the working studio of Esparza along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Digging Deep: Casey Pankey

Casey Pankey, Stillwater
Casey Pankey, Earth’s Child at Play, Wood, Earth, found objects, 64x29x16″
What was your concept and inspiration for these pieces?
The body of work I am currently focusing on is an autobiographical exploration of childhood memories. I use a variety or materials including wood, steel, plaster, and found objects to describe an emotional memory or activity. During my childhood, these activities or moments may have seemed whimsical, yet as an adult, I cannot avoid the bittersweet reaction I have when creating each piece.
Please explain the technique and process you used to create your Momentum work.
“Earth’s Child at Play” was a particularly fun piece to create. I remembered several occasions where I would dig large holes in my backyard. One such instance involved my brother and I digging a hole in my grandmother’s back yard. It was so large that he could stand in it and barely get back out. I thought “Why do kids do that? Why did we do that?” I took my two younger sisters outside and asked them to dig a hole while I photographed them. They were hesitant at first, but by the end, they were both happily covered in mud. I used these photographs for a series that I printed and wrote my memories of my own experience on. That piece is called “Digging.Because.”
This didn’t satisfy my question, though. So, I began a sculptural piece. Looking at the photographs, I noticed the lines that were created in the dirt by digging fingers. My first idea was that the sculpture needed to show this action and a sense of these lines. I wanted the piece to be somewhat decontexualized, therefore I put it on the wall (also partly because I remembered thinking back to my brother’s head poking out of the hole which made me laugh). 
Casey Pankey, Earth’s Child at Play (detail), Wood, Earth, found objects, 64x29x16″
I had a rough sketch of the basic end result, but I did not use a template. I began cutting rough shapes that I felt represented the interior of the hole. I decreased them in size until I felt it was finished. Then, I placed dirt on top to tie the piece back to the ground and allow for visual balance. Something was missing. It was not personal enough.
When we would dig holes in our own backyard, we would find really strange objects buried. We frequently found golf balls and once we found a shoe. So, I included these items in the center of the piece. They are hidden but if a viewer gets close enough, they can find them between the layers of wood. Finally, to maintain a natural wood grain, and simply to continue experimenting, I used white India ink as paint. I’m not sure I ever reached any level of understanding about why we dug holes, but I greatly enjoyed the exploration.
My favorite thing about this piece is that the moment people understand the story, many smile and tell me about their own memories of digging holes in their backyard as a kid.
Where else can audiences see your artwork?
My work may viewed online at http://caseypankey.blogspot.com/
This artwork will be featured at Momentum OKC, opening March 1 & 2 at the 50 Penn Place in Oklahoma City. View, experience and purchase art by Oklahoma emerging young artists. Learn more at www.MomentumOklahoma.org.

Laying the Foundation: Lissie Teehee

Lissie Teehee, Edmond

Lissie Tehee, Steady, Boy, Pen on Paper, 30X22

What was your concept and inspiration for these pieces?
Teehee: I began this series with the intention of creating some subliminal message for my young daughter. The lines were intended as a base, situated as a horizon with colors or objects over the top, but I ended up exploring it much differently. 

I began to stubbornly fill large pages with the lines and in creating these foundations, I began to understand them as the foundational layers that make up our lives. Sometimes we are balanced and other times we are trying to find balance, but nonetheless we are always growing, with some foundation beneath our feet. Not only did these layers come to represent our lives, but I noticed that they were also very geological and even biological or cellular – all of those small parts made one big whole, and the possibilities were infinite.

Lissie Tehee, Steady, Boy (detail), Pen on Paper, 30X22

Please explain the technique and process you used to create your Momentum work.
Teehee: The pieces shown at Momentum were started with pen from the bottom and worked all the way up. They are very intuitive and I rarely have a set plan for them. There are more pieces in this series and in the last month or so I have begun to break out of the borders and start somewhere in the middle, and I am also working on a much larger scale. It is indeed one pen stroke at a time and the process is a calm and quiet one.

Lissie Tehee, The Climb, Pen on Paper, 30X22

Where else can audiences see your artwork?
Teehee: I plan on having this entire series finished to show by the end of spring. I am also in the process of creating a website of my own that will include any series I have done along with my sketchbooks, collage, and printmaking work, which should be up by the end of March.

This artwork will be featured at Momentum OKC, opening March 1 & 2 at the 50 Penn Place in Oklahoma City. View, experience and purchase art by Oklahoma emerging young artists. Learn more at www.MomentumOklahoma.org.