FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lori Brooks | 405 951 0000 | email@example.com
Media kit: bit.ly/OC_ArtNow23
Opening June 22, exhibition mines Joy Harjo poem for inspiration
Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.
You must make your own map.
— Joy Harjo, A Map to the Next World, 2000
Opening June 22, ArtNow: The Soul Is a Wanderer is the latest edition of Oklahoma Contemporary’s biennial ArtNow exhibition, showcasing new and made-for-the-space works from 13 Oklahoma-connected, cross-generational artists. Organized by Tulsa-based guest curator Lindsay Aveilhé, the exhibition takes its title and thematic inspiration from a line in a poem by 2019-2022 United States Poetry Laureate Joy Harjo.
“This edition of ArtNow was conceived by guest curator Lindsay Aveilhé as a call and response,” says Senior Director of Curatorial Affairs Carina Evangelista. “In music, it is a technique for lyrical, instrumental or rhythmic communication, with one musician offering a phrase and another responding to complete it. Using Joy Harjo’s poem, A Map to the Next World, as the call, Aveilhé asked the 13 artists to create or select work in response to the poem, itself a clarion call to heed ‘the instructions on the language of the land.’”
The works in The Soul Is a Wanderer respond to Harjo’s idea of a reimagined future through interpersonal perspectives and approaches across a multitude of mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation and performance.
“The exhibition altogether offers text (including Plains Indian sign language); rhythm (both aural and optical beats); imagery (of love and sorrow, of oblivion and hope); and land (the very dirt collected from different parts of Oklahoma, transformed in the pottery, drawing, painting and sculpture),” Evangelista says. “Land is also at the heart of a pointed question writ large, Whose Kicks? Walking through this exhibition, one can’t help but think of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous quote: ‘Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.’ But viewers are also invited to complete the phrase with their own thoughts and questions as they stand at the intersection of what is felt and seen.”
Together, the artworks in ArtNow 2023 evoke Oklahoma’s landscape and people — its topography and our shared human experience — as a site of questioning, dreaming and action. As we journey beyond the present, the exhibition’s works investigate alternate outcomes of our accord, from the earth beneath us to the cultures we exist in and the complex histories of the past.
“Thinking of our cultural landscape first and foremost as an interaction between people and nature, many of the ArtNow artists produced work centered on politics, identity or ecological concerns,” says guest curator Aveilhé. “Using an array of earth materials to communicate their concepts, Ashanti Chaplin and Yatika Starr Fields mine the complexities of Oklahoma-specific histories, paying tribute to those whose voices and stories have been marginalized or misrepresented in order to challenge dominant narratives.”
Storytelling anchors The Soul is a Wanderer, the artists and their works capturing moments of paths traveled, reckoning and renewal.
“Molly Kaderka and Elspeth Schulze explore our relationship with the primordial, providing us portal-like spaces of passage and dreaming. Kite’s video installation highlights Indigenous cosmologies — the interconnectedness of all things— from stones to animals, with birth and death cyclically connected to the stars and the Big Dipper,” Aveilhé says.
“Likewise, Moira RedCorn explores the creation story and resilience of the Osage people in her landscape painting, replete with a fiery sunset of orange, pink and red familiar to all Oklahomans. In building her soil studies and collected materials, Ruth Borum-Loveland's practice of wandering contemplates not only prehistory, but also how restricted our movements have become in the modern age of private property and fences.”
The works carry viewers from past to present, from history to reality, and into a space of unrecognized potential, within ourselves and the world around us.
“Isaac Diaz, Yusuf Etudaiye and Robert Peterson explore historical representation and symbolism to re-envision identity and construct new centers of belonging and being,” Aveilhé says. “Joseph Rushmore and Nathan Young both grapple with the zeitgeist of the current moment through a lens of the past, urging us to think more deeply about the things we think we understand. Joy Harjo reads A Map to the Next World on her land in Sterlin Harjo’s video that visitors encounter upon entry and upon exit, acting as both opening verse and a coda in the call to be mindful of the paths we choose to chart.”
Sterlin Harjo, known for his Indigenous comedy series Reservation Dogs, will be the second artist honored with the ArtNow Focus Award, a filmmaker and storyteller whose Oklahoma-centered filmography includes Four Sheets to the Wind, Cepanvkuce Tutcenen (Three Little Boys), Barking Water, This May Be the Last Time and Mekko. Bert Seabourn received the award in 2021.
The exhibition kicks off June 22 with an exciting evening of contemporary art, cocktails and special performances. Guests can experience the ArtNow party in three different ways. The 21+ Party with a Purpose begins at 6 p.m., with both general admission and exclusive VIP access. Besides being among the first to see the exhibition, guests can also meet many of the artists. They can also catch the one-night-only performance of Dust to Dirge: An Earth Elegy by on-view artist Ashanti Chaplin and collaborator Gabriel Royal.
Attendees can also enjoy an open bar (including craft cocktails from WanderFolk Spirits and LALO Tequila), passed hors d’oeuvres and entry into The Garde’s Late Night on the Terrace, the third experience of the evening.
“With each edition, ArtNow allows us to examine the state of contemporary creativity and artistic practice across disciplines through a new lens,” says Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis. “As the arts center’s biennial exhibition and one of our longest-running programs, the show connects us to our past as we envision the future of art in Oklahoma — an ethos that informs guest curator Lindsay Aveihlé’s powerful thesis for 2023’s The Soul is a Wanderer. The fundraiser component of the biennial helps to keep admission — and access to artworks by leading artists from Oklahoma to the world at large — free to the public year-round.”
Tickets and details about the opening party: okcontemp.org/ArtNowParty.
ArtNow: The Soul Is a Wanderer will be on view through Jan. 15, 2024.
A media kit featuring this press release, an artist list and high-resolution images can be found at bit.ly/OC_ArtNow23. Interviews with the artists, curator and Oklahoma Contemporary staff can be organized through Lori Brooks (firstname.lastname@example.org). Past press releases and information are archived at oklahomacontemporary.org/media.
About Oklahoma Contemporary
At the new, state-of-the-art Oklahoma Contemporary, visitors explore art and creativity through exhibitions, performances and a wide variety of educational programs. At its core, the multidisciplinary contemporary arts organization is an inclusive space. Exhibitions and most programs are free. You are always welcome here.
In addition to the 8,000 square feet of galleries for visual art, Oklahoma Contemporary’s new downtown home includes a flexible theater, a dance studio and nine classrooms for Camp Contemporary and Studio School. The 4.6-acre grounds also include The Studios, a renovated warehouse that houses ceramics, fiber, painting, printmaking and sculpture classes. Campbell Art Park, our Sculpture Garden and North Lawn lend outdoor space for exhibitions, programs and performances.
After providing contemporary art experiences of all kinds for 30 years at the State Fairgrounds, these new, centrally located facilities dramatically increase Oklahoma Contemporary’s capacity to meet growing demand for arts and culture across our city, state and region.
Oklahoma Contemporary is a regional 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by businessman and philanthropist Christian Keesee and Kirkpatrick Foundation Director Marilyn Myers.