Oklahoma Contemporary
Three young people wearing face masks sit on a bench in an art gallery featuring light sculptures in the background

New Light

July 20, 2020

Screen Age Dream

Inside Bright Golden Haze with the Oklahoma Contemporary Teen Arts Council
Two figures interact with a large screen displaying projected abstract art elements
OCTAC members interact with Entangled (2015) by Camille Utterback

No matter your age, the response to experiencing Bright Golden Haze for the first time is pretty universal: "Wow."

That word rang through the immaculately designed exhibition space last week as masked members of the Oklahoma Contemporary Teen Arts Council got their first look at the inaugural group show exploring the relationship between light and place.

"It's so cool how it's just slightly moving," one member said as the group clustered around the first installation, Olafur Eliasson's rotating Black glass eclipse. "Look at what the light does to your clothes," another offered, demonstrating the sculpture's color-cancelling illumination.

Bright Golden Haze immerses visitors in worlds of light, in many places encouraging physical action and collaboration. This makes the exhibition especially resonant for young people raised in a world of touch screens and social media. As soon as the teenagers began to move throughout the immersive space, it was clear this wouldn't be their average art-going experience.

"At a lot of other museums, you just look at a painting, but this is like a whole different universe," said OCTAC member Aditi. "I like how a lot of the art uses technology. It shows people that art doesn't have to be pen and paper. It comes in all different forms." She stands before Camile Utterback's Entangled, gently slicing her palm through the air as projected elements dance and shudder in response.

A group wearing face masks stand around a light sculpture casting the space in an orange glow
Oklahoma Contemporary Public Programs and Teen Arts Council Coordinator Blair Summers speaks to OCTAC members in front of Black glass eclipse by Olafur Eliasson.

Even those works not powered by pixels and hard drives encourage active participation from the viewer. OCTAC member Autumn stands back from Yatika Fields' stunning Eternal Sun, a commissioned landscape painting that explodes with color and movement. "So far out, the picture is very clear," she said. "But when you get closer, all the atoms are broken down by the strokes — that feels like a metaphor for life."

Around the corner, OCTAC member Nick is having a moment with Ḱanḱagawí (The Seam of Heaven) by Marianne Nicholson. "I've never seen anything like this before," he said. Drawing from the cosmology of the artist's First Nations heritage, the commanding sculpture compares the imagery of the Milky Way to the Columbia River, bathing the surrounding space in an ethereal blue light.

"Using light as a method of portraying art is a good way to captivate people who might not otherwise be interested in museums," Nick said. This was a common thread connecting many reactions from OCTAC members, who see broad value in bringing more and different types of people into museum and gallery settings.

"It completely engages the audience," Autumn said. "That's really important for those who might not understand how essential the arts are to the community."

Oklahoma Contemporary Teen Arts Council members spend an academic year planning, designing and facilitating ways to connect teens with Oklahoma Contemporary through gallery experiences, programs, print pieces, events and project generation. Rising sophomores through seniors are encouraged to learn more here.

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