2015 Oklahoma Visual Arts Fellowships & Student Awards of Excellence

May 7, 2015

Fellowship | ,

Congratulations to the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition on an outstanding showing for its Artist Fellowships and Student Awards of Excellence. The more than one hundred submissions I reviewed are testament to the vitality of Oklahoma’s creative communities.

Selecting just two artists in each of OVAC’s award categories was difficult. Of the given criteria I was asked to use, originality proved the distinction by which I ultimately selected four winners. I have had the privilege this spring of helping jury applications for three other arts programs in two other states; the work made by the OVAC’s fellowship and award recipients stood out—not just among their peers in Oklahoma, but also among the nearly two hundred other artist applications I have recently reviewed—for  offering a fresh perspective or aesthetic.

Stuart Asprey’s graphic ceramics immediately captured my attention with their dynamic linear compositions. Combining imagery from scientific diagrams, cartoons, and commercial products with short, pointed texts, Asprey creates freely-associated stories about our historic and contemporary relationships to food and alcohol. Dense with information and visual detail these narratives reward careful study with wit and humor.

Jason Cytacki’s beguiling paintings of western landscapes and sci-fi interiors resonated with me as simultaneously familiar and strange. The artist first builds dioramas of each scene from common craft supplies, then carefully reproduces these fabrications—complete with their corrugated cardboard edges—in paintings. This emphasis on construction and artifice prompts a reconsideration of the popular myths and heroic stories we so often set in these scenes.

Kim Rice’s salvaged sculptures impressed me with their distinct formal eloquence, specifically how they appear at once grounded and animated. Critiquing human habits of production and consumption by deconstructing and reforming the material detritus of daily life is not a new artistic endeavor, but Rice pursues it with admirable openness—her abstract forms provoke questions rather than make statements.

Ashley Farrier’s narrative painting cycle struck me with its ambition. In an effort to address the absence of black protagonists in many history books, Farrier is creating a grand alternative story in which she casts herself as a black queen.  Her use of oil paints is likewise bold; carrying with it the traditions of history painting, the medium adds deliberate gravitas to her narrative.

In addition to awarding Asprey and Cytacki the Artist Fellowships and Farrier and Rice the Student Awards, I want to applaud all of the artists who submitted applications. Presenting one’s work to an unknown curator who will view it through a limited lens takes courage. I am sincerely grateful to each artist for giving me the opportunity see a sampling of his or her creative practice, and I wish everyone great success as they endeavor forward with their work.

-Emily Stamey
Guest Curator