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.

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

TAC’s Tulsa Taboo: More Than Naughty Bits

By Janice McCormick

Untitled, created by the curators of Tulsa Taboo: RC Morrison, Kara Greuel, and Steve Tomlin
The Tulsa Artists’ Coalition call for entries for its Tulsa Taboo asked artists to submit “art that expands boundaries, that asks hard questions, that challenges the status quo.” The resulting juried exhibit proves to be quite diverse, of high aesthetic quality and thought-provoking.  The size of the exhibit (twenty-nine works in all) precludes an in-depth description of each and every one. Hence, this review’s limited aim is to whet the appetite of the reader to come and see how these artists meet this challenge. Tulsa Taboo is on display through July 30th.

The usual “naughty bits” are well represented. Julie Strauss’s shaped copper tubing sculpture High Beams depicts a curvaceous female form, complete with headlights for breasts and a convex mirror for her face. This elegant and witty work in the Art Nouveau style received a Juror’s Choice Award as well as the People’s Choice Award. Clayton Keyes’ ceramic sculpture Circle Jerk consists of ten upwards pointing penises with their testicles, forming a circular enclosure – a sort of sexual Stonehenge celebrating masculine virility. 

Clayton Keyes, Circle Jerk
Political issues cropped in several works. Protest regarding the unjust treatment of Native Americans emerged in two works. Anna Muselmann’s Façade depicts a warrior, whose smiley face hangs askew, revealing his suppressed anger. This work won Best of Show. Talon Micco’s painting Andrew Jackson used the historical portrait of Andrew Jackson, with the word “genocide” painted in red across the bottom.  Red splatters mar the gilded frame. On the local level, John Gaskill skewers the feuding relationship between Tulsa’s mayor Dewey Bartlett and the City Councilors by depicting the politicos torturing one another in his Tulsa Mayor/City Council Coloring Book. Environmental concern meets political satire in Nancy Smart Carlson’s Testing, Testing! Inhofe Testing Worm Holes for Rising Temperatures and Global Warming. This dark cut-away image of the earth reveals a series of meandering worm tracks and a thermometer reading red hot. 

A compact, untitled installation is the result of an anonymous person’s challenge to the art community “…to do something that shows guns and violence should be Taboo.” For two months, this person thrust newspaper and magazine articles on this theme through TAC’s mail slot. The three curators (RC Morrison, Kara Greuel, and Steve Tomlin) decided that they themselves would turn this private cry from the heart into a public experience. They spread the articles and magazines across the top of a small desk, inviting the viewer to pour over them and to read the anonymous person’s annotated comments and underscored phrases, such as “GUNS – GUNS – GUNS,” “Home Invasion,” “Police gun deaths increase in 2009” and “lax laws feed the illegal gun trade.” The desk lamp symbolically shines a light on an issue that many would rather ignore. A pair of scissors and a tape dispenser encourage the viewer to imaginatively cut out more articles and tape them together, thereby making this issue their own. Even more magazines in a partially opened drawer suggest that gun violence will only escalate unless society does something about it.

As these works illustrate, Tulsa Taboo is not to be missed. The gallery is located at 9 East Brady in Tulsa. Its hours are 6pm to 9pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  

Exhibition Glimpse: Woodmansee & Twilley at Velvet Monkey

Imaginative and realistic draftsmanship highlight both David Woodmansee and Brandi Twilley’s show of macabre drawings, which opened at the Velvet Monkey Salon on 16th street in Oklahoma City’s Plaza District on Friday the 13th.

Woodmansee’s drawings are fanciful and mesmerizingly detailed ink and marker creations executed with a smooth, illustrative touch. Most are black and white or sepia renderings, where color is splashed sparingly. His subjects – animals, monsters, and vampy women, are at home in the dark palette which is used to create scenes of the absurd, the grotesque, and sometimes, the beauty beneath the menace.

Twilley’s work is a series of dense and precisely shaded pencil drawings, all of which pair two female skeletons mid-stroll on a fashion runway in a variety of settings and garb. The dreary frames sport both eyeballs and full heads of hair, but are absent any insulation minus the creations they are modeling.

Caustic and precious at the same time, the statement pieces have lovely texture. They are repetitious, symmetrical, and strangely calming. It’s easy to forget the gaunt frames are meant to be unsettling.

The skeletons serve as an antithesis of Woodmansee’s female forms, examining the menace beneath beauty, yet the two differing interpretations are not at odds, as the two artists’ styles are complementary.

The adage “the devil is in the details” comes to mind, as you see every bone in anatomically correct proportions and placement in Twilley’s work, and similarly, Woodmansee captures every pine of cactus, and every scale on a snake’s body. These artists miss nothing, and the sheer energy and concentration they have poured into these unassumingly small works (scale-wise) is awe-inspiring.

The show runs through December 11th, and some works are available for sale. The Velvet Monkey’s hours are Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

by OVAC intern Sarah Clough Chambers

Exhibition Glimpse: Jim Keffer & John Wolfe at JRB

The motley acrylic paintings of Jim Keffer and the John Wolfe opened at the JRB Art at the Elms Gallery on Friday to a packed house during November’s Paseo Walk, with Wolfe’s refined architectural representations and heavy abstract sculptures complementing Keffer’s distorted and earth-toned landscapes.

Both of these artists have an admirable grasp of color, Keffer preferring earthy complementary colors in his southwest landscapes, while Wolfe deftly executes the complicated geometry of buildings using cooler colors juxtaposed by warm oranges and reds of the surrounding commercial signage.

Wolfe’s work is smooth, realistic, and eerie in that they almost always represent seemingly vacant buildings bathed in bright midday sunlight. The paintings, which are absent of any human figures, are effectively stripped of any residual quaintness, forcing the viewer to observe the beauty buried within the neglected edifices.

Somewhere near the other end of his repertoire’s spectrum, Wolfe’s sturdy wooden abstract sculptures loom large and open to interpretation. Usually several feet off the ground and easily disassembled, Wolfe cites the ordinary and observable as his inspiration (Bundle 25’s muse is flower stems pulled from his garden).

Keffer’s heavy and thick brushstrokes are charmingly blocked in his slightly abstract look at southwest scenery such as roadside memorials, cobalt skies, mountains, and isolated churches. As the sun is very much omnipresent in the southwest, his scenes appear to be viewed through heat waves, containing very few value changes and shadow. You can almost feel the sun beating on your neck.

Keffer and Wolfe’s show, along with a small works (8” x 8” pieces by various artists) will show through November 28. JRB’s hours are Monday through Saturday, 10-6, Sunday 1-5.

by OVAC intern Sarah Clough Chambers

See more about the exhibition in Art Focus Oklahoma.

Exhibitions: JP Morrison at Pearl Gallery

A Beguiling Blink
By guest blogger Janice McCormick
Blink and you would have missed J. P. Morrison’s one day show at Pearl gallery in Tulsa on July 29th. Consisting of seven works, J. P. explores the fantasy life of young women. Two particularly outstanding pieces, “Sphinx” and “Through the Looking Glass,” demonstrate her meticulous execution and magical vision.

Far removed from the inert Egyptian “Sphinx” monument, Morrison’s “Sphinx” (colored pencil and acrylic on board) bristles with dynamism. She achieves this quality by balancing opposing forces in both content and composition. A pale nude woman languidly curls across the shoulder of a snaring tiger. Her long dark red hair and outstretched arm rest motionless on its head. The tiger’s leg and paw come straight down in front of her naked thigh. Its invisible claws pose no threat to her. Inextricably, a circle of water rests between the gaping red jaw and paw. Streaks of water flow from the tiger’s leg to her abdomen. The nude’s eyes are closed, as if she is asleep, dreaming she is that tiger. The thrust of the arm, left and downward, to the tip of the tiger’s nose is counterbalanced by the arc of her curving back that pulls the eye back toward the right. All this takes place against a black background – most appropriate for the metamorphosis that takes place both in dreams and the realm of the imagination.

“Through The Looking Glass” captures the facial expression of “Alice” frozen in fear and trepidation at some off-canvas sight or some event about to transpire. Her white mask sits on top of her head revealing her eyes – eyes that stare out from under the mask’s shadow. One hand is brought up to her mouth as if she is chewing on a fingernail. The fingers are so angular that they almost are contorted into a claw. Here the mysterious element is the white-hot circle of light at her breast. Perhaps, given the title, it stands for the psychic mirror she is about to enter, while the mask is her naïve persona about to be abandoned.

As these two works exemplify, J. P. Morrison provides a strong psychological insight into the fantasy life of young women. These seven works will be seen at The Base Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri from August 7th through September 26th in an exhibit entitled “ Beguiled: The Folklore of

View J.P. Morrison’s blog at http://jpmorrison.blogspot.com.

Events: Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts

OVAC intern Maria Glover visited the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts on Opening Day. Here’s her report:

Festival of the Arts is Here!

If you haven’t already checked out the annual Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts you’re definitely missing out! The mixture of art and food is a perfect combination for a day or night out on the town.

I ventured out Tuesday around 11 am on Hudson Street and it was packed with art lovers and workers on lunch break. Festival goers appeared to have fun with the impressive sculptures on the Stage Center’s lawn as they played around and took pictures. The vendors are also an exciting element of the festival. I walked cautiously over to each trying to convince myself that I wouldn’t be suckered into buying anything. My will power did not last, and I bought the most beautiful baked clay hand-crafted candle holder with colored crushed glass in the center. To my surprise, I also found artists selling original crafted jewelry (one of my many obsessions!). I managed not to buy anything but “window shopping” was fun.

So, there’s the art but of course this review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the food. There are so many food tents that whatever you’re craving you’re bound to find something you’ll love. I found my favorite, a scrumptious gyro, and enjoyed a good eat while I continued browsing through the art vendors. It can’t get better than that!

If you love art, jewelry, unusual crafted pottery, great food etc., you’ll love the Festival of the Arts. So go check it out – it lasts until April 26th, open from 11 am to 9pm. Enjoy! -Maria