Line by Line: Drawing Exhibits at Philbrook

Philbrook Museum of Art, 2727 S. Rockford Road, opens two fascinating exhibits this weekend: Peggy Preheim: Little Black Book and From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci: A Century of Italian Drawings from the Prado.

Preheim is a contemporary living artist whose drawings, while small and delicate, are fierce in their meticulous detail. The exhibit includes 75 of her drawings, along with sculptures and photographs, all created between 1984 and 2007, and is curated by Harry Philbrick, director of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn.

Rand Suffolk, Philbrook’s CEO, curated the exhibit’s assembly within Helmerich Gallery and gave me a sneak peak. The drawings are astounding and will require some time and devotion from their viewers. The sculptures were not yet on display, but, according to a release from the museum, they too are meticulous, often featuring white clay and found objects, like furniture, dolls’ clothes and Victorian glass.

Of the title of the exhibit, Preheim said, “I think Little Black Book can serve as a provocative end enigmatic summing up of the work in the exhibition. This concept can refer to many things. For me, it refers to the closing of one chapter and the opening of another; the acquisition of language; the ‘book’ which appears in some of my allegorical drawings points to the book of Revelation.”

A full color book titled Peggy Preheim, published in conjunction with the exhibit, will be available for purchase in the museum bookstore.

On the opposite side of the gallery is the Prado exhibit, which features 70 superb 16th century Italian drawings. The Museo del Prado is acclaimed as one of the world’s premier art institutions, and this tour marks the first time many of the works will have appeared outside of Madrid.

The works range from quick sketches to elaborate commissions and help trace the lineage of the drawing art form. I suggest starting with the Preheim exhibit to experience how a contemporary artist utilizes her pencil, and then move over to the Prado survey, delving into the history of the medium.

Both exhibitions open Sunday, and museum hours that day are 10am to 5pm. Philbrook is closed Monday, and on Thursday the museum is open until 8pm. The exhibits will hang until July 26. For more, visit www.philbrook.org.

A Little Perspective

Christopher Westfall was driving his wife Cheryl to the doctor last August when, all of a sudden, his eyes went dark. He couldn’t see.

Westfall is an artist best known for his renderings of Tulsa cityscapes, but when a stroke left him unable to see well enough to paint the detail necessary for an accurate portrait of the town, he changed his perspective.

Cheryl’s appointment became Chris’s, and after a battery of tests, visits to specialists and a couple of guesses, his doctors finally decided he had had a small stroke that killed the nerves behind his eyes. He was left with double vision and vertigo, both of which made it impossible for him to paint the cityscapes he had pained for the past 22 years, the ones his fans and patrons loved so much.

Not one to put down the paint brush, though, Westfall began to do something he had never done before – he painted abstracts.

“What I found out about abstracts is that they’re the same as any painting: They involve color and composition. But, you can eliminate a lot of the details,” he said.

Westfall said he found painting abstracts “freeing.” When he’s painting landscapes or cityscapes, especially for a client, they have to look like what they represent.

“These don’t have to look like anything in particular,” he said. “There are no set rules. I love that.”

Westfall regained his sight gradually over the course of about three months, and he has returned to his cityscapes, but he still paints the abstracts when he can.

And even though they’re different, looking at one of his abstracts next to a painting of downtown, you can see the similarities between the works. You can still see Westfall’s style in the abstracts, in the color palettes and brush strokes.

His abstract work isn’t on display now, but you can see traditional Westfall paintings at Mayfest this weekend in the Invitational Gallery and at M.A. Doran Gallery, 3509 S. Peoria, as part of the "National Contemporary Realism" show, through the end of the month.


A New Home for Contemporary Arts

Last night, I got to help make history.

Living Arts announced that it will open in its new space, Living Arts Contemporary Space, at 307 E. Brady, on August 15. George Kaiser Family Foundation owns the building and is leasing the first floor to Living Arts for what I’m guessing is a nominal fee.

The second floor will house 13 apartments, occupied by recent college grads who will be infiltrating Tulsa Public Schools’ most underserved schools as members of the service corps Teach for America. Since the teachers have to be in place in the fall, the whole building is set to open Aug. 15. Architecture firm Kinslow, Keith and Todd will handle the design and build of the outside walls, as well as those that connect the two floors, and the stairway, elevator and lobby.

The remaining portion of Living Arts will be built as funds are available by architects and builders of the organization’s choosing, which is why, last night, a group of architects, artists and designers gathered at the space to flesh out ideas.

The building, with 12,000 square feet of usable space (twice what LA is working with now) will be totally dedicated to contemporary arts. There will be two galleries, one for visual arts and one for performance arts, as well as three education spaces, a lounge, bar and kitchen and office space.

As we toured the facility and began thinking about how we wanted to design and build walls, windows, entrances, signage, lights, sound, etc., etc., we were encouraged to think creatively about solutions, and to think of every solution as a temporary one, so that LA can continue to grow, change and develop.

We were divided into committees, each one (hopefully) comprised of a blend of professionals: architects, designers, artists and “other” (me, for example).

I joined Linda Clark, LA’s new administrative director, on the bathroom committee, along with Chris Ganong. Because I’m not an artist or designer, and because I have virtually no technical skill – but I want to be a part of designing the new space – I chose a small project, where virtually all of the technical work (plumbing, etc.) will be handled by KKT, and I can think about paint, art… you know, the fun stuff.

But, Linda and I really need the help of artists! We want to tear out the existing stalls and have artists design new ones out of material of their choosing – the more unlikely, the better. In my mind, I’d love for it to be some kind of found or reclaimed material, but I’ll by no means limit an artist to that. We will probably limit them in budget, though, but I don’t know yet what that will be. I’m guessing it will be small, though, so we need artists who will either donate their talent or be willing to work with us on a fee.

We’re also thinking about incorporating sculptures and other art into the bathrooms, but we need artists’ help! I know it sounds like an unusual project, and it is, but it’s also an exciting one, and I hope that some local, and even student, artists will want to participate. We’re meeting at Living Arts (current address: 308 S. Kenosha) at 5:30 on Tuesday, May 19. I encourage anyone who wants to participate to please, please come! I’ll have photos of the bathroom so you can get an idea of what we’re working with, and maybe we can even take a field trip to the site.

And stay tuned for more updates on Living Arts’ progress. After an itinerant 40 years, in which the gallery had 10 different homes, it’ll finally have a permanent residency. It’s an exciting time for art and downtown Tulsa, and I encourage you to be a part of it.

And the winners are...

Yesterday, I had a contest allowing two lucky winners to cash in on some free goodies at this weekend's Blue Dome Arts Festival.

First, the winner of two free gyros, selected at random, is:

Comment No. 2 came from joei. Congrats!

Next, the winner of a gift certificate for $10 worth of make-and-take art courtesy of Tulsa Stained Glass (this amounts to two mosaic tiles), is:

Comment No. 1 came from Christine Crowe, of Weather&Noise. Congrats! Christine also won big yesterday on www.tashadoestulsa.com. Lucky girl!
Hope you both have a great time at Blue Dome and enjoy your goodies. Send an e-mail to tulsaartblog[at]yahoo.com to claim your prize!


Giveaway: Goodies at Blue Dome Arts Festival

As seen in today's Urban Tulsa Weekly... (Photos by Don Emrick, courtesy www.bluedomeartsfestival.com)

In 2001, a group of 20 artists gathered in the courtyard of fellow artist Virginia Harrison's Owen Park home for the First International Clayfest. Little did they know that, eight years later, their little gathering would grow into a major arts event, attracting hundreds of artists and thousands of visitors.

The Blue Dome Arts Festival, which occupies First and Second Streets at Elgin and Detroit of the Blue Dome District this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, began because local artists wanted to devise a way to be part of Mayfest, a 37-year-old arts and music festival that infiltrates downtown Tulsa each spring.

Mayfest attracts hundreds of artists from all over the country. They're selected by a jury to show work at the festival. In 1982, Mayfest incorporated the Invitational Gallery in order to accommodate more local artists in the festival. Those artists are juried as well, and with about 100 spots available, admission into the gallery is competitive.

"Local artists were frustrated that they couldn't get into the gallery because of the competition," said Harrison, who works in ceramics and glass. "There are so many artists in Tulsa, and they needed to be able to show their work. We realized that people really want to see local artists' work."

Those artists decided to hold their festival at the same time as Mayfest because, Harrison said, people were excited about art during Mayfest. They encouraged people to stop by their festival once they'd left downtown.

In only two years, Clayfest outgrew Harrison's back yard, so she approached developer Michael Sager, who owns much of the property in downtown's Blue Dome District, about having their event in that area. He loved it, and since 2003, the Blue Dome Arts Festival has steadily grown, both in number of participants and patrons.

Harrison said she's learned something about hosting the festival every year, and she understands how Mayfest started out as a small celebration of artists and grew into a massive event.

In fact, her hope for the future is that Blue Dome Arts Festival and Mayfest meld into one large, arts-lovin' event. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen, but the two festivals' organizers work in tandem with one another to ensure that both festivals are well-attended and achieve their missions of celebrating and proliferating art.

More than 100 artists will set up booths at this year's Blue Dome Arts Festival, and an additional 30 or so can set up in the festival's space for Emerging Artists. The Emerging Artists area is dedicated to young artists who've perhaps never participated in a festival before and aren't quite sure how. They can set up for free, learn a bit from veteran Blue Dome artists, and then perhaps set up their own booths next year.

In addition to the Emerging Artists area, the festival has added an Emerging Musicians element to the festival, allowing young, burgeoning musicians to set up and play on Blue Dome's stage in between scheduled musical acts.

Tulsa's own Hanson will make a stop at the Blue Dome district at 11am on Sat., May 16. The band will conduct a mile-long segment of its "The Walk Tour," which supports the new album, The Walk. The tour is fighting poverty and AIDS in Africa.

For a complete list of artists and musicians who'll be at the festival, visit www.bluedomeartsfestival.com.

Though the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa sponsors the Blue Dome Arts Festival and area restaurants and business contribute to its success, it's still very much a grassroots event, organized entirely by volunteers.

And while Mayfest still attracts more artists and seems to earn artists more money for their work, many of the artists exhibiting in Mayfest's Invitational Gallery will also have booths at Blue Dome Festival, including Harrison. The artists at Blue Dome Festival are generally younger, emerging artists, giving the entire festival a more bohemian feel.

The festival is open Friday, from 12-9pm; Saturday, from 10am to 8pm; and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

Virginia Harrison gave me a certificate for two free gyros and two free pieces of make-and-take art from Tulsa Stained Glass Co. to give away to two readers. One reader will win the gyros and one will win the stained glass art. To win, leave a comment telling me your favorite aspect of the Blue Dome Arts Festival. The winners will be chosen at random at 9am Thursday, May 14. Good luck!


Oklahoma arts receive national recognition (and a good amount of money)

The Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust announced today that it has received a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest single grant ever awarded by the NEA to an Oklahoma organization.

The grant falls under the category “American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius” in the discipline “Presenting” to acquaint Americans with the best of the nation’s cultural and artistic heritage.

The PAC Trust will share the $40,000 with Gilcrease Museum and the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers for a collaborative project called “Oklahoma Landscapes: A Plains State of Mind.”

The PAC Trust, in partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, will use the grant to present an eight-performance run of Oklahoma native Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County, from Jan 26-31, 2020. GKFF will underwrite the presentation up to $250,000 and assist with marketing, said Stanton Doyle, GKFF senior officer for arts and culture.

The title of the entire program, “Oklahoma Landscapes: A Plains State of Mind” is borrowed from a line in Letts’ play and speaks to Oklahoma’s unique geographic location.

Billie Letts, award-winning Oklahoma author and mother to Tracy Letts, described her son’s play, saying it “reveals old secrets and opens old wounds.”

“He asked me if it bothered me that he more or less told all of my family’s secrets,” Billie Letts said. “I told him it bothered me a little bit, but he’s still in the family will.”

Gilcrease Museum will present an exhibition of and lecture featuring works “strongly connected to Oklahoma,” evocative of the “uniqueness of our state’s landscape and heritage.”

The exact content of the exhibit and lecture is yet to be determined, but it will likely be presented November of this year to March 2010.

The OCPW will use its portion of the funds to present “Oklahoma Landscapes: A Literary Tableau” on January 21, 2010 at 7pm in the Oklahoma State University-Tulsa auditorium. The event will feature readings by some of Oklahoma’s most noted authors, including N. Scott Momaday, Joyce Carol Thomas, Billie Letts, Michael Wallis and Rilla Askew.

In addition, the Center will kick off a reading campaign, marketed specifically to Oklahoma English teachers.

“Writers play an important role in Oklahoma landscapes,” said Teresa Miller, OCPW executive director.

She said John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath continues to be the literary definition of Oklahoma, but contemporary Oklahoma authors are rewriting that definition.

PAC Trust Program Director Shirley Elliott said the NEA grant will have at least a $5 million economic impact on the city and through the attendance of its programs, will reach roughly 600,000 people.

Susan Neal, director of community development and education initiatives for the City of Tulsa, said the hallmark of a community is its arts endeavor, and that Tulsa’s recognition through this grant signals to the rest of the country its major contributions to the arts world.


"Bonny Goon"

Harrod Blank is a product of his environment. He grew up in the Redwood forest of the Bonny Doon mountains, just outside of Santa Cruz, Calif., without the influence of TV and pop culture.
“Growing up, I raised chickens and ran through the forest,” he said.
His family didn’t own a television set, so rather than basing his values on what he saw on TV, he developed them on his own.
When he was 16, he got his first car, a 1965 white Volkswagon Beetle, what he called “probably the most boring car someone could own.”
To differentiate himself and his automobile, Blank painted a rooster on the driver’s side door, and that single act became the catalyst of his long career in art cars.
“I wanted to show people (at his high school) that I didn’t look like they did and I didn’t have the same values they did. I was different,” Blank said.
He was surprised, though, at how much attention the painted rooster got him. The kids at his school began to refer to him as “Rooster Man” or “Chicken Man,” and the notoriety earned him invitations to parties and an identity.
He added objects to the car, including a television, which he shot and mounted to the top. In it he placed symbols of what he saw on TV: A Barbie doll to represent sex, Jell-O to represent commercial advertising.
He worked on the car through high school and college, and he sill has it and adds items to it. And as he constructed his art car, thinking he must be the only person in the world with a car like his, he began to hear snippets of information, stories of other people across the country and their own art cars.

Beginning in 1986, Blank began seeking out and photographing art cars all over the country, and he compiled his findings into a documentary called Wild Wheels, released in 1992, which he promoted by driving his first art car “Oh My God” (named after the response people frequently gave to seeing the car) across the country.

In 1993, Blank had a dream about a car covered in cameras, and he spent that year collecting more than 2,700 cameras, which, in 1994 and 1995, he mounted to a 1972 minivan. Camera Van, in addition to being a piece of art, was also a solution to a problem. Blank wanted to be able to photograph the public’s reactions to his art cars without them being tainted by the presence of a camera.
Nestled in with the thousands of non-working cameras were 10 that were rigged to snap photos at random intervals, thereby capturing the public’s honest, immediate reaction to his creation.
Blank will exhibit the photos produced by the Camera Van and his photographs of art cars in an exhibit at Liggett Studio, 314 S. Kenosha, opening tomorrow at 6pm.
Blank has also produced another film about art cars, called Automorphosis, which the Circle Cinema will show Sunday, May 17 as part of Art Car Weekend. The film and Blank’s book, Art Cars, will be available for purchase during the exhibit and Art Car Weekend. His exhibit at Liggett will hand through May 23.

Blank talked about using automobiles as a medium, saying, “Cars are already a powerful object because of their mobility. They’re seen by a lot of people. I think they reach people similar to radio and TV because of the number of people who see them.”
The art car cult craze is still proliferating, Blank said.
“The whole point is saying, ‘It’s OK to do this to your car.’ A lot of people see a minivan and they think it’s supposed to look like that,” Blank said, pointing to a car parked across the street from Liggett Studio. “But once they do it and see how much joy it brings to themselves and to other people, they realize it’s OK.”


Cinco por Cinco

Every year, the Tulsa Artists' Coalition Gallery hosts its annual 5x5 Fundraiser, and the event has become one of the gallery's most popular.

The exhibit and fundraiser, now in its 10th year, opens tonight, May 5, at 5:55pm. All of the artwork displayed was donated by local artists and created on five-inch-by-five-inch canvases. It sells for $55 each. The gallery requests a $5 donation at the door.

The small works represent a wonderfully creative variety of subjects in painting, ceramic, photography, paper, metal, wood, cloth and other mediums.

According to a release, "Whether it is representational or abstract, whimsical or profound, you are bound to find it at this art event. These small works can easily find a niche in your home. Both the artists and the public are eager to participate. The art patrons line up well in advance of the opening of the doors at 5:55pm."

The event generates a large portion of the gallery's operating revenue, allowing it to keep exhibition costs low for artists. It also provides the public with an opportunity to purchase original, local art at a low price.

The Tulsa Artists' Coalition is an artist-run, non-profit 501C(3)organization of artists and art supporters formed to encourage and support emerging and established contemporary artists and to foster the development of new forms and multi-disciplinary works in Tulsa and surrounding communities.

The 5x5 Fundraiser continues through May 23, and work will be available for purchase until that date. Gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday, 6-9pm and by appointment.


Call to artists: Jenks Art on Main

(Taken from a press release.)

The Jenks Historic Downtown District will be transformed into a cultural arts experience on Saturday, October 10 from 10am to 6pm as thousands of participants gather to appreciate Oklahoma’s creative talent at Art on Main.

The art show seeks to create access to a broad array of art experiences, nurture the development and understanding of diverse art forms and cultures and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in Oklahoma. This event recently was awarded Oklahoma Community Institute’s “Outstanding Community Improvement Initiative.” Featured entertainment will be Tulsa’s Salsa Rhythm Project.

Artist applications for a variety of mediums, such as drawings, glass, jewelry, metal, mixed media, painting, photography, sculpture, wood carvings and other art forms are being accepted for consideration into this juried show. Artists may showcase and sell their artwork.

This event is sponsored by the Jenks Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation. To request information, contact Brittany Sawyer with the Jenks Chamber at (918) 299-5005 or info@jenkschamber.com. The deadline for submissions is June 30. To access applications online, visit the events calendar at www.jenkschamber.com.


Why I Love Tulsa (Hint: Because of its filmmakers)

As if he didn’t have enough to do, local actor, director and producer Starr Hardgrove is embarking on yet another endeavor, this one with the mission of uniting local film artists around their love of Tulsa.

Enchanted Grove Films PLP, Tiroma Films and Evandrake Productions (code names for Hardgrove, Rob Harris and Titus Jackson) are banding together to create on feature-length film, comprised of about 20 short films, centered around the theme “why I love Tulsa.” Why I Love Tulsa will also be the name of the film.

The three were involved in the feature film Jesus Fish (of which I’ll have a review soon; Harris sent me a copy of the film last week), and realized how “easy” it is to make a feature-length movie, Hardgrove said. They decided to bring all the folks in town who’ve been involved in making various short films together for one long one.

So far, about 15 directors are on board, including the three aforementioned partners, and they’re holding auditions for actors and technical support this Saturday, May 2 at 2pm at Tulsa Community College’s Metro Campus, 909 S. Boston, in room MSU 202.

Auditions will be cold readings of scenes for the camera and will be made available to the actor via online video after the taping. Each audition will take no more than five minutes. No further preparation is required.

Each of the films will be shot in 20 days at some recognizable Tulsa landmark or location. They’ll all be fictional, narrative films, incorporating love, Tulsa and loving Tulsa.

The finished film, which will likely resemble something like Paris, Je T’aime (and Hardgrove says New York, I Love You will hit theaters soon), will do three things, according to Hardgrove: It will showcase directors in Tulsa and their work, it will showcase Tulsa actors (of which they’ll need about 100) and it’ll showcase landmarks and filming opportunities in Tulsa, hopefully drawing outsiders in.

Hardgrove isn’t just involving film directors; visual artists, musicians and even a body paint artist will direct films.

Directors will begin shooting their films after May 17, and the project’s organizers will edit them as they come in, fusing them together with photographic and musical interludes. They hope to have the entire thing finished by October 31. They’ll show the rough cut to various local musicians and commission music inspired by the film for a CD to accompany the film.

The public will see Why I Love Tulsa on February 14, 2010.

Hardgrove said he’s still looking for directors, investors and local businesses to get involved in the film. Head to auditions Saturday or visit www.whyilovetulsa.com to get in on the action.

Point Blank

Tomorrow night, artist and graphic designer (Point Blank Design) Sara Bowersock opens an exhibit of new work at Ida Red, 3346 S. Peoria. Bowersock's new collection celebrates legendary Oklahoma musicians (that's Leon Russell above). Her style, heavily steeped in her design background, is like a blend of dark, moody rock 'n roll and colorful pop music.

The exhibit opens with a reception (read: party) Saturday, May 2 at 7pm. The Electric Rag Band, in which Bowersock is a musician, goes on at 8pm, and there'll be plenty of snacks and free booze.