A version of this column appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Oklahoma’s artistic diversity on view at 12×12
Column: Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s 23rd annual fundraising event will auction off small works by 150 state artists tonight at 50 Penn Place
A cluster of craggy peaks shoves up to meet a gathering tempest within a small, square framework showcased on a wide wall of 50 Penn Place.
Bryan Cook’s tight black-and-white photograph of the “Morning Storm on the Cathedral Group” stands out among the diverse range of 12-inch-by-12-inch artworks collected in the former space occupied by Talbot’s.
“These are the Grand Tetons but you wouldn’t really notice it because it’s not the typical view of the Tetons. … This is just a small slice of everything that’s around you. And I’m never going to be able to recreate what it’s like to stand there in that moment. Ever. But it’s the hope that somebody kind of says, ‘Oh, wow, I want to go do that. I want to go look at that,’” said the Oklahoma City landscape photographer.
“The camera’s sort of my license to go to these places, to go backpacking and go out in the middle of nowhere and be by myself. It’s a different experience. You experience yourself differently, you experience nature differently.”
The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s 12×12 Art Fundraiser offers a prime opportunity to see the state’s art scene differently, too. Part of the 23rd annual art show and auction, Cook’s painterly photo is exhibited on the same wall as one of Michi Susan’s elegant mixed-media painting-poems and Trent Lawson’s formal portrait of “Star Trek” hero Mr. Spock beautifully rendered on black velvet.
“That’s the way it should be. I think you get to see all the variety of what Oklahoma has to offer just on one wall,” Cook said Monday as the show was being installed.
“It’s really cool. I think this is one of the better shows in Oklahoma City, just because a lot of people work great with the constraints and some people find it a challenge. But I think everybody does a good job with it.”
Featuring small works from 150 top Oklahoma artists, 12×12 is the only annual fundraiser for OVAC, a nonprofit organization that supports visual artists living and working in the state.
“Something that our committee is really mindful of when they are inviting the artists is to keep it very diverse as far as media, styles, artists from all over the state. We’ve got people from all corners of the state represented here. So it really is kind of a good sampling of what artists are making in Oklahoma,” said OVAC Associate Director Kelsey Karper.
This year’s 12×12 is set for 7 p.m. Friday (today) in the ground-floor space inside 50 Penn Place. The one-night-only event will include live music from Brent Blount Jazz Trio and Miss Brown to You, food from 25 local restaurants and a raffle for prize packs. But the main attraction will be the blind and silent auction of the array of specifically sized artworks.
As the event’s name indicates, each work must be no larger than 12 inches by 12 inches, or for three-dimensional pieces, 12 inches high, wide and deep. Bids for each piece begin at the relatively affordable $168.
“Artists take this challenge of having to work within this confined space in different ways: Some artists look at it as ‘OK, I have a relatively small canvas to experiment with something new, and this is a nice way to sort of test something different than I’m normally known for.’ Other artists see it as a way of concentrating something that they’re already working on in a smaller way. But for some artists like myself, 12-by-12 is actually pretty large,” Karper said with a laugh.
To create her whimsical seascape “Pursued by an Octopus,” Karper cut aquatic illustrations out of old children’s educational books, reassembled them into a three-dimensional diorama and photographed it in black and white.
“It’s sort like you’re taking one instant out of an imaginary story … and you have to figure it out for yourself what the rest of the story is,” Karper said.
Opportunity for risks
The story with Romy Owens’ 12×12 submission is that it isn’t at all typical of her usual work, which involves shooting digital photographs, cutting them up and then hand-sewing them back together.
For her 12×12 entry, though, the Oklahoma City artist took an otherworldly Hipstamatic cell phone still of Marco Brambilla’s “Civilization,” a video artwork installed in the elevator of the Standard Hotel in New York City, and had it acrylic mounted.
“My work is incredibly time-consuming, so it’s nice to be able to do something … that is a little bit more instant gratification. And it is radically different imagery. This is a whole different aesthetic,” said Owens, who is participating in her fifth 12×12. “It is nice to be able to do something that is different. This is a safe environment to do that in, which is great.”
Last year’s 12×12 raised more than $65,000, which went primarily to OVAC’s grants and awards programs. Owens received a grant earlier this year to frame the 29 hand-stitched photos in her “The Keanus” series — each photo is named after a Keanu Reeves movie character — on view through Sunday at JRB Art at the Elms.
“It’s a way to give back and support the organization that helps individual visual artists more than anybody else in the entire state,” Owens said. “And it’s the show to be in.”
Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s 12×12 Art Fundraiser
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Where: Ground floor, 50 Penn Place, 1900 Northwest Expressway.
Information and tickets: 879-2400 or www.12x12okc.org.