In July of last year, I wrote about Momentum Tulsa. In that column (See "Looking Forward to 2009" online at urbantulsa.com) I offered a brief contrast between Momentum Tulsa and its sister event in Oklahoma City presented by Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC).
When I attended Tulsa's exhibition, friends and OVAC members shared their opinions on the differences between the grandeur, turnout and awards given at the two shows. Having never experienced Momentum OKC, I made 2009 my debut year.
Opening night for this year's show was Friday, March 6. Unlike Tulsa's version with the same name, OKC's Momentum transforms an area not originally made for the arts into a gallery. Last year Tulsa made use of Liggett and Living Arts Studio as well as the Equality Center.
OKC's 2009 site was an old mail distribution center. I had the pleasure of previewing the mail facility prior to its transformation. On that initial visit, the building struck me as one of the dingiest and largest buildings into which I had ever stepped foot.
I thought, How the hell are they going to transform this into a presentable gallery?
Upon entering the converted space on opening night, I said to Cristi and her mother, "Wow. They did a great job in here!"
I cast my vote for my favorite visual artist, and enjoyed the peculiar live exhibit near the entrance. There were several street BMX bikers who greeted me with their own mix of stunts. It all occurred within the building-- not a scene you see everyday in an art gallery or mail center.
I had trouble recognizing the place.
"It has only been two weeks since we were here last, right?" I asked Cristi in disbelief.
It was well lit, much cleaner, and, with hundreds of people inside it, seemed much more like a bustling showcase than a former distribution center with abundant space.
I recognized many of the artists and their innovative work from last year's Tulsa event, but the main difference in the two shows exists in the conversion of a mail center into a gallery -- one extra detail that makes the environment itself an integral component of the exhibition. Therefore, to this newbie, Momentum OKC is the richer of the two OVAC events.
Open to local artists 30 years of age and younger, the show highlights some of Oklahoma's finest visual and performance artists.
Still being comparatively new to the art scene, I needed time to digest the deeper subject matter. Extracting the theme or overall message is something to which I typically commit 30 seconds or less; and if I can't decipher the meaning, I usually assume there isn't one.
It helps me retain my sanity/ego.
That one is too abstract, I'll think prior to moving on, I'd have to locate the artist to fully get this one.
According to Momentum 2009, this year's OKC exhibition had 239 pieces by 136 artists. The talented artists were whittled down from 464 submissions by 199 artists. And I didn't dislike a single piece -- quite the contrary.
Unfortunately, I was only able to attend Friday night's opening. Thus, I missed the performance art from Saturday. I wasn't thrilled about my inability to make the second night, but I had some much needed out-of-town plans that needed my attention (i.e. vacation).
Cristi and I shared our favorite works with one another. This meant that, because she is much more qualified to assess art than I am, I asked her what she liked and then trimmed my own list. Luckily, she, too, was impressed with all the art selected by this year's curators, Heather Ahtone and Romy Owens.
Once again, like in Tulsa, I was struck by the resourcefulness of so many Oklahoma artists. But, resourcefulness is kind of my thing. It's work like Aaron Hauck's Save Money, Live Better, a bear rug constructed from Wal-Mart bags, steel and Styrofoam, that I appreciate. And, it's easy for me to determine his message. Not only did I relish the work, but OVAC did, too. Hauck was one of the four honorable mentions for this year's exhibition. He won Tulsa's Viewer's Choice last year.
My other favorites were created by Jerrod Smith, Brandi Twilley, the Pawley Award of Merit winner, Kolbe Roper and Jessica Cradock.
OKC's viewers' choice awards went to Ashley Sword (visual artist) and Kjelshus Collins (performance).
A new expansion to this year's Momentum OKC show was the Momentum Spotlight program, a selection of three featured artists from across the state. The three selected experts were given $1,500 and assistance from curators in creating installations for the exhibition. Grace Grothaus of Tulsa, Darryl Hillard of Stillwater and Brooke Madden of Norman were this year's choices. They enhanced the overall energy of the evening.
Additionally, the exhibition's winners were presented with more than $2,000 in awards.
I was proud to see the state of visual arts within Oklahoma in safe, young but maturing hands. Oklahoma's young artists can produce. Momentum is proof.
As I said in July, I am still looking forward to 2009's Momentum Tulsa. I'll be there. Now that I know the target for Tulsa's exhibition, where our OVAC event could expand, I remain optimistic.
From my experience, OKC's Momentum is the apex of OVAC exhibitions. Will that change? I can't say. Tulsa surpassing OKC may never happen or may not need to. But, I would love to see similar transformations of extraordinary venues and a proud reception by even more Tulsans.
What I do know is that Tulsa's show will include creative, able artists. It will be one of the best shows of the year in the city. And, a celebration of homegrown talent. That's reality.
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