Oklahoma Contemporary
Yatika Fields
Close-up image of a person with dark features, sitting in front of an abstract painting

New Light

Oct. 15, 2020

#ThursdayThree with Yatika Fields

The Bright Golden Haze artist offers a lay of the land
Two figures stand in front of a large abstract landscape painting in an art gallery
Eternal Sun by Yatika Fields, on display in Oklahoma Contemporary's inaugural Bright Golden Haze exhibition. (Photo by Alex Marks.)

Is there more than one way to see a sunset? Bright Golden Haze artist Yatika Fields thinks so. To that end, the Oklahoma painter's vivid abstract landscapes — influenced by a combination of classical fine art training and graffiti aesthetics — leave space for the individual experience of the viewer.

"There's a lot of things you'll see that the next person might see totally differently," he said. "You're going to create your own memory with it."

Fields' own memories of light and land are bound up in works like Eternal Sun, on view now in Oklahoma Contemporary's inaugural exhibition. A staggering large-scale landscape that feels both organic and out of this world, the work reflects the Osage/Cherokee/Muscogee Creek artist's own experience with jaw-dropping environments across the globe.

"I've seen pink so magnificent I didn't think it was possible, because of a sunset hitting a mountain in Aspen at just the right time," the Tulsa Artist Fellow said. These intimate, fleeting moments with the natural world come to dazzling life in the artist's work, engaging the themes of light, place and space in Bright Golden Haze.

Before you reserve your limited access timed ticket to see Fields' monumental landscape in person, learn more about the artist's practice in today's #ThursdayThree installment.


Can you talk about the influence of street art in your work?

Graffiti aesthetics work into my painting through fluidity, movement and spontaneity. This is something I learned when I was younger, doing graffiti in my early 20s, living on the East Coast. I was painting with a brush at the same time, but I was also experimenting with the street and the lifestyle of being young in a city. That's about being out in the streets, being out in the night. It's like a performance with the urban environment. You're painting quickly, and you're moving quickly. I took those aesthetics with me into my fine art practice and oil painting. So I'm using full-body movement and a lot of activity and force. It's very gestural, and that's something I didn't know prior to graffiti as I was doing landscape art or trying to render the human form.

Once I got into the street and the activity of using a spray can, I learned you have to be quick. You have to make quick decisions, and you have to use a full body motion. So I took that and combined it with everything I learned from my fine art practice and landscape painting mentorship in Italy at a young age. I combined that into what I do now, which is this kind of evolved, dynamic concept of painting where I'm utilizing both that skill of movement and fine art technique.

A person traverses a dramatic mountainside on a sunny day
Yatika Fields runs the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc trail race in the Alps. (Photo by MaindruPhoto)

What is ultra-marathon running, and what is its relationship to your practice?

Ultra-running is anything over 26.2 miles, a marathon distance. I've been involved in those distances: 50 miles, 70 miles, 90 miles and so forth. I've gotten into this kind of running over the last five years. A lot of these races take place on trails throughout the world — beautiful locations, mountains, countrysides. You'd never see this unless you're in a race or on these trails in training. It's allowed me to really immerse myself in nature, in all kinds of changing light.

I first started doing landscape painting when I was 19, in Italy under the mentorship of Marty Avrett who was a drawing and painting instructor at Oklahoma State University at the time. That changed my whole idea of what color is and how to capture essence. Now I go back into running in nature as a part of my practice to feel wholesome and good. I can put that into my work, and it relates how I feel back to the public and whoever sees it. I want to imbue that for the viewer. It also allows me to really be aware of my surroundings, to be aware of myself and the landscape — the overall essence. In the end, I'm trying to capture an essence in my painting.

A seated figure gestures in front of a colorful abstract painting
Yatika Fields began painting landscapes in Italy at age 19. (Photo by Dennis Spielman.)

Can you talk about the process of transferring these intimate moments with nature into large-scale works like Eternal Sun?

I made a pact with myself to make at least 10 landscape paintings a year, and I've done pretty good on that. Mostly these paintings are with watercolors on paper. I'm traveling and I have my tube with me and my papers and watercolors. I go to beautiful locations and I give myself maybe an hour (or two hours at most) to get a painting done. It's not about capturing the realistic elements of it. It's about capturing that essence, moving quick and getting the feel for the space I'm in. Then I let it dry, roll it up and take it with me. Then I move on to another location.

Those opportunities allow me to really move my hand and capture what I feel rather than see. The sounds: I hear people laughing, I hear cars, I hear the water, I hear the boats creaking. I hear beautiful things and I try to paint those elements — not necessarily what I see, but the feeling of where I'm at. Then when I come back into my studio, I remember those things. My hand remembers how to capture that. Those aren't around me, but the moments are.

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Bright Golden Haze Yatika Starr Fields ThursdayThree landscape Native American art Exhibitions

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