Whitney Forsyth's latest work is stunning. Looking at it, it's simply beautiful. Taken in context, it's also powerful and evocative.
The University of Tulsa professor is displaying her ceramic installation at Living Arts, 307 E. Brady, in an exhibit that opens Friday, Jan. 8 and runs through Jan. 28.
Mixed Blessings, as the exhibit is titled, illustrates the struggle of children living in communist Romania, with the children depicted as berries and the Romanian government as black birds.
"Through personal travel and involvement in Romania, my life and my art work have been changed," Forsyth writes in an artist's statement.
"For over 13 years, my husband and I have volunteered in Romania to help alleviate the conditions in orphanages," she wrote. "As a direct result of this work, we adopted our daughter, Simona, and at the same time found ourselves fascinated by and immersed in the multidimensional Romanian culture."
Although the ceramic figures in the installation are gorgeous and exquisitely made--shaped into berries, birds and other organic forms and then finished with a layer of bright Oil Patina--Forsyth said she didn't intend for the objects to represent the children's beauty or potential.
"The piece addresses a more political aspect of the child welfare struggles in Romania," Forsyth wrote. "The issues that continue to keep thousands of children held hostage in deplorable state institutional settings.
"My work focuses on the increasing numbers of children annually entering institutions in Romania and the government's ability to ignore this."
Forsyth wrote that her experiences in Romania, which date back to 1994, have impacted her artwork in that, rather than emphasizing the found piece of nature, she now focuses on the aspects of nature that inform her own life and experiences.
"My hope is that Mixed Blessings will be another attempt to speak about the turmoil surrounding the child welfare system in Romania today," she wrote.
Also opening at Living Arts Friday are two interactive sound and light installations. Greg Dixon and Colby Parsons present Luminous Oscillations, and Joni Younkins-Herzog presents Ambience.
Both exhibits use sound, light, mirrors and digital media to interpret audience participation, which then changes the environments created.
In their artists' statement, Dixon and Parsons, who both live in Texas, invite audience participation, writing, "Your presence and your movements, along with those of anyone else in the room at the time, will cause the identity of the soundscape to shift and morph in a variety of ways."
The intention of the exhibit, according to its creators, is to transform the viewer's role from observer to collaborator.
The sounds featured in the exhibit, though transmitted through digital media, are sourced from ordinary, material phenomena, such as construction machinery and running water.
"Stylistically, we approached this piece with the intention of expanding a few simple elements into a deep, lush environment," the artists wrote.
The artists made the mirrors from hand-thrown stoneware clay and individually cut mirrors.
"The sensors, although fundamentally based in technology, dare you to reach out and provoke them, thus counterbalancing their precise, stiff silicon logic with your expressive human unpredictability," the artists wrote.
Younkins-Herzog's Ambience is composed of artist-made sculptures "intended to evoke an emotional response and create a dialogue between the visceral and intellectual, the conscious and the unconscious, and question our tendency to 'disconnect' our minds from our bodies," the artist wrote in her statement.
"I lure my viewers closer with luscious materials and sensual forms--inviting them to take a closer look," the artist wrote.
"The egg form represents the awesome power or reproduction, combined with the responsibility for what we create with our lives, thoughts and intentions."
Younkins-Herzog lives in Florida but lived for two years in Tulsa, teaching 3-D design, sculpture, ceramics, stone carving and art appreciation courses at Rogers State University in Claremore.
All of the exhibits featured at Living Arts this month open with a reception on Friday, Jan. 8, 5-8pm.
The exhibits and reception are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 1-5pm; Thursday and Friday, 1-9pm. More information is available at www.livingarts.org.
Down the Road
Also opening Friday is Form in Flux: Paintings by Kristal Tomshany at the Tulsa Artists' Coalition Gallery, 9 E. Brady.
In a statement, Tomshany explains her work: "I was born and raised on the high plains of Oklahoma, where the wind is a daily force to be reckoned with. Perhaps this is why I have never considered space as a void or as an absence but rather as an active, palpable and ever-changing presence. Likewise, I have always believed inanimate objects to have their own 'aliveness' on an unseen level.
"As an artist, I try to peel away a layer of our limited human perceptions in order to expose the formless essence of an object as well as the constant interchange between the form and the space that surrounds it," Tomshany wrote. "It's a difficult balancing action--creating a convincing illusion of form without obliterating the underlying flux."
Tomshany's exhibit opens with a reception 6-9pm on Friday. TAC Gallery's hours are Thursday through Saturday, from 6-9pm, and by appointment. More information is available at www.tacgallery.org.
Living Arts' and TAC Gallery's exhibits are part of the monthly "First Friday Art Crawl" in the Brady Arts District. Other galleries in the district will be open Friday night, Jan.8 from dusk till 9pm, featuring new or ongoing exhibits as well as demonstrations.
Pick up a flyer in any of the district's galleries to guide you on your crawl.
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