The thing that really hit me during my first gallery hop was my experience not only of the art, but especially of the artist. The artists ranged from a clairvoyant who makes narrative assemblage art to a Mad-Eye Moody type displaying a kitschy take on Christianity to a peppy young man using his art to make cynical commentary on the state of global power. And then, there were breakdancers.
Left Field Project Gallery, 819 E. 3rd St., hosted TYPros third annual Next/Now art show, "Countdown to Utopia." This was my first stop -- I walked into the gallery, trying not to run over other attendees or be run over -- that's how crowded it was, and smiled over at the DJs spinning music in the corner of the gallery. Songs blared while people chattered over them; I looked around for the breakdancers but didn't see any obvious suspects. LFP was by far the most energetic art opening I've ever attended.
Walking into LFP felt like walking into a crowded club on a Friday night, only there was cool art on the walls and people weren't acting like drunken idiots.
Circling the space, I scoped out the "Countdown to Utopia" show, based on an invitation for artists to interpret the sustainability movement in Tulsa as well as Tulsa's potential for the future. Works included two photographs by Marjorie "Gigi" Bontemps titled "Tuturistic" and "Tul-Topia."
"Tuturistic" showcases the Williams Center building, a dark photograph with lots of yellow light radiating from the glass and shot from an unusual angle. Also displayed was "The Storm Is On Its Way," a black and white photograph by Toni Li of six twenty-somethings dressed to go out on the town, their backs turned to the viewer, their gazes cast over the Oklahoma prairie, where the wind is blowing up something like change.
A set called "The Book Series" caught my attention, although no artist was acknowledged. There are four paintings in the set, "Where They Are (1)," which displays a monster from the popular children's book Where the Wild Things Are, "Corduroy," with a rendition of the stuffed bear, "Giving Tree," with the giving tree in a prominent spot and "Where They Are (2)," with Max from Where the Wild Things Are taking center stage.
The figures are rendered in precise line-drawing style closely mimicking the original illustrations while the background consists of loose brush strokes with a graffiti feel. Above the series, attached to the wall hangs a heavy piece of metal symbolizing the state of Oklahoma. A wrecking ball hanging from the panhandle appeared to be on the verge of crashing into the book series. Interpret this how you will.
On Down the Road
I got tired of waiting for the breakdancing and ventured down to Liggett Studio, 314 S. Kenosha.
The first person I bumped into at Liggett Studio's "Passages" was assemblage artist Joy Frangiosa.
"Assemblage" was an art term unfamiliar to me. Dictionary.com gives the definition as it applies to fine arts: "a sculptural technique of organizing or composing into a unified whole a group of unrelated and often fragmentary or discarded objects." Frangiosa's art allows seemingly unrelated elements to merge in her work.
Flea Market connoisseur, dumpster diver, and happy recipient of gifts left on her porch by neighbors, Frangiosa holds onto pieces until they all fit together and make sense for a particular assemblage. Both a feeling about the project and time spent doing research ensue before a piece is completed.
Frangiosa's light blue eyes shone with an otherworldly light as she began telling me that she is an artist and a clairvoyant, with a painful personal past. Her pieces, often resembling alters or shrines are meant to give a voice to people whose voices never had a chance to be heard.
Frangiosa walked me around her show explaining the stories behind many of her pieces. That is what struck me most about Frangiosa's work; instead of feeling like I was looking exclusively at visual art, I felt I was reading a narrative and historical piece.
"Stop the Violence" is dedicated to Kelsey Briggs, an Oklahoma baby who didn't make it past the age of two due to child abuse that resulted in murder. The piece serves as a shrine for all abused children.
Other works address the artist's family, pioneer and Native American women, the children of Letchworth Insane Asylum, and murdered orphan Sister Maricica Irina Cornici. Frangiosa tells intense stories with her assemblages, often weaving in an element of hope and "closure," as well as a voice for the voiceless.
The exhibit ends October 24.
Wandering over to the other end of the studio, I found Jason Zaloudik's political installation. In the center of his set of paintings is a stuffed coyote, a sword going into his back, a rose in his mouth and rose petals spread on the floor around him. In front of the coyote, a beat-up old-fashioned gas can with a kind of growling music emanating from within. Zaloudik said "gasoline [was] one of man's first friends and foes." The piece, entitled "Tangled Fury," is composed by Danford Mitchell.
The paintings surrounding the coyote feature images of war toys in acrylic and oil, such as a wind-up tank and toy soldiers. Dubbed "The Once and Future King," the coyote represents Western civilization. The rose symbolizes life put in jeopardy by Western civilization.
The painting "Orion Holiday" warns that things aren't as calm as they seem -- children play on a merry-go-round, people stand near an ambulance holding balloons in their hands, and a bomb has gone off in the distance, with a nearby building just beginning to crumble.
The concept of civilization being destroyed contrasts with clean and colorful renderings of war toys, playgrounds, tanks, etc. I almost had to remember to take a second look to go beyond the poppy feel of the paintings and consider the intended message.
Slipping out of Liggett Studio and wondering if I'd missed LFP's breakdancers, I noticed a group of people huddled in front of Living Arts, 308 S. Kenosha.
Dr. Richard J. Bay, Associate Professor of Art/Art Education at Radford University in Radford, VA, a man with a Mad-Eye-Moody demeanor, and the exhibiting artist of "Mom said, Have Faith!" hovered in the doorway looming larger and talking it up with former students.
Dr. Bay's mixed media exhibit, which he completed in three weeks' time, consists of many metal signs with mixed religious messages such as "jesus is cummin immediately" as well as two separate signs paired together to read "Jesus Saves..." "at Wal-Mart." I enjoyed the artist's willingness to take liberty and have fun with faith.
"Mom said, "Have Faith!" runs through October 23.
I missed the first set of breakdancing when I decided to wander away from LFP, but I couldn't help stopping back by to see the moves of Movement 918. When I returned to LFP, the members of Movement 918 were outside taking a break. These guys- Leonard Richardson, Boogi and Hex, have been breakdancing for almost six years. After getting their names, I let them rest and prepare for their next set.
Inside, LFP Gallery was still packed with people and the music continued in full force. I didn't have to wait too long for Movement 918 to find their spot in the middle of the gallery floor. Their energy was through the roof, their moves amazing; the guys hammed it up for the art show crowd, who circled around the dancers and watched in awe and enjoyment. It was worth stopping back by LFP to see Movement 918 perform and take a second look at the art show.
I barely hit the tip of the arts iceberg in Tulsa this month. There are still many shows open during October; be sure to check out the Events section on page 49 for a full list of gallery exhibits in Tulsa.
I hope that you are able to get out there and support our talented and energetic artists, visionary galleries and the arts in general.
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