Collaborating & Experimenting: Paul Bagley’s Fellowship

April 25, 2012

Fellowship | Public Art

Since the 2012 deadline is next week (May 1), I asked the 2011 Oklahoma Visual Arts Fellowship winners to talk a bit about their year and how the Fellowship helped their artistic practices. The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition awards two $5,000 Fellowships annually. See Paul Bagley‘s story below.

Flaming Lotus Girls ,  Tympani at Burning Man 2011

If you find yourself full of creative energy dedicating your precious time to your visual art instead of your broken down car then the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition is working for you with their various grants and programs. I’m writing this as one-of-two recipients for the Oklahoma Visual Arts Fellowship 2011 year.


In recent years I’ve made artwork that is site-specific or event-oriented and didn’t have a lot of exposure in Oklahoma City prior to receiving the award. My recent efforts led me to organizations like OVAC to help realize this creative energy.

Fellowship recipient Paul Bagley
After encountering a few detours in life I found myself struggling between money, time, and space. I gravitated towards activist art and raw art where I eventually discovered grants for artists like myself in 2007. I joined OVAC shortly thereafter and found the organization to be a very positive effort.

I applied for the Oklahoma Fellowship once before, and twice for Art 365 to no avail. These are significant opportunities for non-gallery artists like myself. So I began to look outside Oklahoma again for grant opportunities. I landed a competitive grant years ago in California and was exploring that avenue again when the Fellowship was announced. It enabled me to continue my progress in art, collaborating with a respected artist collective in San Francisco, whose work I consider at the edge of the contemporary art world. 
Preparation for Flaming Lotus Girls, Tympani at Burning Man 2011
The effort required advanced skills among the relentless crew on a scale that amounted to twenty-two thousand pounds of steel. Unfortunately we ran out of time and didn’t finish the skin elements for the work.

It was a multi-partnered work under the umbrella name of the Flaming Lotus Girls whose work was displayed at Burning Man 2011. My role was a lead fabricator for fitting the complex angles of the truss work into its final composition for structural integrity.
Preparation for Flaming Lotus Girls, Tympani at Burning Man 2011
Tympani is a macro scale representational sculpture of the human middle and inner ear anatomy just beyond the tympanic membrane. The semicircular canals are known to detect horizontal head movements while the superior and posterior canals detect vertical head movements.

Although the sculpture appears abstract the content was recognizable by physicians during the exhibit. One of several dynamics included forced-air fire jets representing sound vibrations transmitting electro-chemical signals. The fire effects in themselves created a secondary element of a living breathing life to the sculpture, which was activated by participants.
Preparation for Flaming Lotus Girls, Tympani at Burning Man 2011
I’m all for progressive urban design in U.S. cities that value art in public places. Oklahoma City is on that path. I’m hoping that my efforts might one day land a large permanent art commission in such an environment. I look forward to a more pronounced effort within local experimental art knowing that it’s a matter of critical mass and economic growth that OVAC reflects. My next art installation will be in Colorado this June made possible by a grant from Apogaea.

Practicing Oklahoma artists may apply for the Oklahoma Visual Arts Fellowship by May 1. Oklahoma art students or recent grads may apply for the Student Award of Excellence. Learn more about last year’s Fellowship winners in these videos—Bagley & Eyakem Gulilat