Each fall and spring, Lovetts Gallery, 6528 E. 51st St. in The Farm shopping center, holds a special exhibition with the explicit premise of showing works relatively unknown to Tulsa and the region.
The Fall and Spring Perspectives bring in artists who have never before exhibited in the area and whose style, approach and methodology are unfamiliar to the average gallery-goer in Oklahoma. "Spring Perspective 2009" brings the likes of Maurice Evans, James "Bud" Smith, Mateo Romero, Chapel and Todd Ford.
Although renowned for his work in "fashion-infused jazz motifs," his display at Lovetts is what Evans is most passionate about -- his mixed media "folk" paintings that involve themes of flight, movement, change. His characters can be found wearing beaked masks, donning garb resembling feathers, posing in a birdlike stance or careening down a winding road on roller skates.
Evans fuses old and new painting techniques with his background in fashion. The result is striking, intriguing, whimsical and quite beautiful.
Smith is a Cherokee woodcarver who, while adhering to traditional subjects like cranes, bears and buffalo, has also delved into subject matter still considered taboo and even disgraceful by his Cherokee peers -- the nude female form. What I love most about his work is that, as gallery owner Waylon Summers pointed out, it is meant to be handled. His work is so subtle, so deliberate, that there are contours that can't be seen by the eye, and the artist encourages viewers to touch the work in order to fully appreciate it.
Like Smith, Romero is a Native American artist challenging traditional "Native American art." There is a progression to Romero's mixed media pieces: some show very traditional Native American images, but the technique used to paint them is very contemporary; while others show contemporary Native American subjects just as they are, without the fog or glamour of the past.
One image, for instance, involves a young Native American woman, whose long hair is reminiscent of lingering tradition, but the cigarette hanging from her lips and rose tattoo stamped on her lower back let slip the current times.
Chapel is a bronze and mixed media sculptor famous for his portrayals of wildlife, but in his mid-50s, the artist decided to shift toward a style that was, while perhaps less lucrative, more fulfilling. While he still sculpts the occasional wolf or fowl, the majority of his work is quite abstract in its appearance, adhering to his interest in the material with which he works. He's also quite interested in the evolution of mankind and the footprint we leave on our environment.
Ford paints in a style similar to photorealism but, as Summers pointed out, there is also quite a bit of abstraction in his work. According to the artist, "I am much more interested in creating work that is a synthesis of my own vision and sensibilities without the strict confinements of true photorealism."
What fascinates me most about all of the artists involved in Spring Perspective is that, while their work may not seem all that avant-garde or progressive, in terms of their genres, it is. They are all challenging their niches, pushing us and their peers to rethink what we know and consider to be "art."
The Spring Perspective opened Thursday, Feb. 26, but since the opening coincided with the start of the New Genre Festival, I visited with Waylon and Jack Summers earlier that day to get a glimpse of what would be on display. I was pretty excited by what I saw.
The gallery is laid out with the works most easily identifiable and understandable placed in the front, with the viewers' recognition unraveling the deeper in they get, becoming slowly initiated into new styles and works.
Waylon Summers explained to me that the work of some of the artists, especially Evans and Chapel, might be somewhat challenging to the gallery's regular, fine art-collecting clientele.
He used Evans' work as an example, saying, "Most people look at art in terms of whether or not they would buy it, display it in their homes. It's a very decorative approach to viewing art.
But Maurice is not a decorative artist. So it's going to challenge some people."
I, for one, enjoy a good challenge; and I'm excited by a gallery whose proprietors have the courage to challenge their traditional clientele with work they aren't used to seeing and might not normally appreciate simply based on the belief that the work is of high merit and deserves to be seen.
As Waylon pointed out, you attend some openings expecting to be challenged, to see something new and different and progressive. Typically, Lovetts is not one of those. So, it takes a lot of courage, then, for its owners to deliberately choose to exhibit such work. And I hope it pays off for them. After the opening, Waylon told me that it was the most successful his gallery has ever had. So, perhaps it already has. Kudos to them. I'll be sure to wander by their doors more often.
The exhibit hangs through March 19, and gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, 10am-6pm, and by appointment. For more, lovettsgallery.com.
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