When is a sweater not a sweater? When it's art.
There is a group of artists in Oklahoma, some of them in Tulsa, who have played an integral role in the resurgence of appreciation for craft -- think knitting, basket weaving and quilting -- as art.
Most who think of basket weaving in its most basic -- and boring -- form would be shocked and awed by the unusual and beautiful baskets (and other objects) woven by contemporary fiber artists and by what other modern fiber artists are coming up with these days.
And if you've never experienced modern textile art, your opportunity is coming up. Local textile artists will show off the fruits of their labor this weekend, when the Fiber Artists of Oklahoma brings its annual juried exhibition, FiberWorks, to Tulsa for the first time in 15 years.
In its 33rd year, FiberWorks showcases traditional and innovative techniques in weaving, knitting, crocheting, felting, quilting, soft sculpture, paper, needlework and basketry. The exhibition features textile artists from Oklahoma and awards $4,000 in prizes.
Juror Jane Dunnewold, a surface design artist who teaches, lectures internationally and has authored books on designing and embellishing fabric, selected the works in the exhibit, which opens Friday at Living ArtSpace, 307 E. Brady St.
"I am self-taught," writes Dunnewold in her juror's statement. "I am especially interested in writing and making as integral aspects of the creative process. Works begin as white silk and are transformed through dyeing, painting, drawing and screen-printing with sand. I seek a whole larger than the sum of the parts and am currently intent on discovering what it takes for a visual surface to be perceived as poetic."
The Brady Craft Alliance, a network of contemporary craft artists in Tulsa, has helped to bring this exhibit to Tulsa and is showing its support by sponsoring a new $500 award, called the BCA Award for Innovation in Contemporary Fiber Art, to be presented on opening night.
Next weekend, BCA will host the Brady Craft Alliance Style Show on June 10, from 6:30-8pm. The event includes a cocktail reception and digitally enhanced style show by Margaret Roach Wheeler, a textile artist and designer based in Joplin of Chickasaw and Choctaw descent.
Wheeler merges her education in fine arts with her American Indian heritage to weave contemporary, expressive and elaborate garments based on traditional clothing. Her work has been exhibited in museums across the U.S. and has been featured in several fashion shows.
"Featuring Wheeler's amazing fiber creations is a natural adjunct to the fiber exhibition," said Myra Block Kaiser, chair of the Brady Craft Alliance. "In fact, there will be one of these creations on display at the opening of the exhibition on June 3 at Living Arts.
The FiberWorks exhibit opens Friday, June 3, in conjunction with the Brady Arts District First Friday Art Crawl, with a juror's lecture at 5pm. That and the opening reception, from 6-9pm, are free and open to the public. Dunnewold will complete her juror's critique on Saturday, June 4, at 11am, an event that is also open to the public.
The exhibit will hang through June 23. Gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 1-5pm and Thursday and Friday from 1-9pm.
More information is available at livingarts.org
Also on display at Living ArtSpace is 053121: 90 Years Later, an exhibition, coordinated by Walt Kosty, of work by students at Booker T. Washington and Central high schools.
On the day of the Tulsa Race Riot, May 31, 1921, Booker T. Washington and Central were the only two high schools that existed in Tulsa. In the aftermath of the riot, the community used the schools as focal points for providing assistance to survivors and victims.
"Although both campuses have relocated, the legacy of this tragic day remains a part of the collective history of the students who attend classes there," Kosty said.
Present-day students were asked to review the recorded history of this event and respond creatively from their vantage points, 90 years later, while exploring personal, cultural and/or historical ramifications of the event using resources from various local cultural organizations.
The exhibit includes two- and three-dimensional visual art, photography, musical performance, poetry and some combinations of the media.
The work will be judged by professionals from the visual and performing arts who will award cash prizes based on the quality of creative execution and artistic expression.
The exhibit opened May 31 and will be on display through June 23 in the gallery's western half. For more information, visit Living Arts' website.
On the Prowl
The Tulsa Artists' Coalition Gallery, 9 E. Brady St., is also opening a new exhibit Friday night, Recent Works by Chris Mantle.
His recent work has revolved around the apocalyptic belief that something may occur of the divine or celestial nature at the end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar on December 21, 2012.
Mantle's exhibit is a series of pre/post-apocalyptic works correlating the months with each year between 2000 and 2012. Each of his 12 paintings will capture major events of that year, matching the seasonal climate, as experienced near the Center of the Universe in downtown Tulsa, with the events described.
"I have heightened interest in the human figure, as did the Old Masters," Mantle writes in his statement. "They're simply beautiful."
Mantle is a painter who works with acrylic, oil and spray paint, as well as fabric, paper and ink.
The exhibit opens Friday with a reception from 6-9pm and is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday from 6-9pm, and additional information is available at tacgallery.org.
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