NORMAN — There are some spectacular images of tornadoes and other severe weather, and quite a few surprisingly subtle and indirect approaches to the subject, in the National Weather Center Biennale exhibition.
Dealing with “the impact of weather” on our experience, the 100 works in the show, depicting everything from dramatic tornadoes to drops on a windshield, are on view at the National Weather Center.
Falling into the latter category are the circles of water and balls of green and yellow light, presumably from “Pershing Square, Los Angeles,” seen through glass, in a large colored pencil drawing by Elizabeth Patterson.
Patterson said in the catalog that the “Best of Show” work is part of her “rainscapes” series, based on watching and taking reference photos of windshield “patterns created by water and night light” during rainstorms.
A Pennsylvania native who has lived in Los Angeles since 1979, Patterson began drawing again in 1999, after overcoming a severe injury that resulted in the complete loss of the use of her drawing hand.
Patterson will receive a $10,000 cash prize for the “Best of Show” composition, which was done on vellum paper, and a one-page ad for her work in Southwest Art Magazine.
Equally offbeat are the tops of some eight anonymous gray-white cars, and one yellow car, which seem to be partly submerged in murky gray water, in an oil panel by Tom Berenz, of Madison, Wis.
“Society's ambivalent attitude of both pillage and protection lies at the thematic heart of my work,” Berenz said of the enigmatic, but evocative oil, called “Flooded Car Lot,” which won the show's $5,000 best painting prize.
Small and understated, but well handled, is a pastel on paper by Tom Heflin of dark gray “Approaching Winter Storm” clouds, lowering viselike over a furrowed corn field, a distant farm and a thin red horizon line.
A Rockford, Ill., artist, Heflin said the drawing, which won the $5,000 best award in the show's works on paper division, depicts the farm where he rented an abandoned house when he began his art career in 1970.
“It felt like I was on a small, wooded island in the middle of nowhere,” Heflin recalled, but added that “the isolation suited me fine,” since he had enough work for a show the next September, where he sold everything.
Much more extreme and almost surreal is Mitch Dobrowner's black-and-white photo of a slender, nearly ethereal tornado “Roping Out.”
“For me, these moments happen when the exterior environment and my interior world combine,” said Dobrowner, a Los Angeles artist who won the $5,000 best photo award for the picture.
Among notable works by Norman artists were a monotype of white sky under a dark cloud at “Midnight on the Outer Banks” by Don Holladay, and a “Soothing” photo of polyp-like, pink-lavender clouds by Cecil R. Houser II.
Jointly sponsored by the National Weather Center, the University of Oklahoma's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Norman Arts Council, the show was curated by OU's Alan Atkinson.
Guest jurors were Denver Art Museum director Christoph Heinrich, contemporary artist Spencer Finch, and Washington, D.C., television meteorologist Jacqui Jeras.
— John Brandenburg