Laura Reese’s Top 10 Art Experiences of 2015

January 6, 2016

Top 10 2013 | Readings | , , , , ,

Last year was a blast, and though I can say that about every year at OVAC, 2015 was quite the year for me. The last year was imbued with a lot of change, allowing for new opportunities and projects to unfold. I was able to attend and be a part of a variety of amazing art programs & events. I’m excited to share my favorite & most memorable experiences of 2015 with you!

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10. Yeah, No, I Mean It: Time, Situation, Dexterity Performance Symposium, April 18, 2015, Kansas City, MO

This year I was honored to be invited to perform a new work at the first annual performance symposium in Kansas City, MO. This work, Art History Yoga, was a facetious yoga class that drew upon art history terminology to create absurd situations. While I was there I attended panels and workshops by performance artists from around the country, and saw new works by young artists in our region.

9. 24-7 Art Exhibition in the Paseo, July 24, 2015, Oklahoma City, OK

What happened to all-nighters? It seems that was the only real way to get any work done in school. And, as an adult, I suppose it’s still true for some of us. So, why not use that format for an art exhibition? Organized by the Project Box in the Paseo, the 24/7 Art Show ran for a brief 24 hours. During the period, the Project Box gallery rotated 7 artists in the space, while performance artists and musicians performed in a.k.a. gallery. I gave a repeat of my Art History Yoga class to participants, and got to be part of what may be the craziest all-nighter I’ve seen since art school.

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Ed Ruscha at the 2015 Governor’s Arts Awards, held by the Oklahoma Arts Council

8. Ed Ruscha at the Governor’s Arts Awards, December 2, 2015, Oklahoma City, OK

The Governor’s Arts Awards are the only awards I keep up with. Forget the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes; I want to know who’s making waves here. So, to no surprise, this year’s arts awards were filled with community members striving to make a change through the arts. Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC) this year, the OAC designated Ed Ruscha as a Cultural Treasure. Ruscha, who has been influential in the pop art scene since the early 1960’s grew up in Oklahoma. In his speech at the awards, Ruscha declared that his work draws upon his history and adolescence in Oklahoma. It was inspiring to hear a well-known artist from the coast continue to claim Oklahoma as part of his identity and inspiration.

7. New Genre Festival XXIIB, Living Arts Tulsa, September 12, 2015, Tulsa, OK

Right on the heels of the 12×12 Art Fundraiser (September 11), I drove up to Tulsa to see the New Genre Festival at Living Arts. The annual festival of experimental and progressive art is unique in Oklahoma, and perhaps the region. For 22 years, New Genre has consistently brought in thought-provoking work that pushes the limits of traditional media. Performances I saw included Tulsa artist Mark Wittig’s Two Room School House, for which he received an OVAC Grant, and Austin, TX artist Sarah Hill’s I’m Fine. After a long week of an event, I felt incredibly invigorated by the artists at New Genre, and was ready to make & do more!

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Sarah Hill, “I’m Fine,” Performance, New Genre Festival, Living Arts of Tulsa

6. Tulsa Art Studio Tour, April 11-12, 2015,Tulsa, OK

Putting an OVAC program on my top 10 list may seem like a cop-out, especially since it’s a program I help coordinate. But, the Tulsa Art Studio Tour is so seamlessly run by our volunteer committee–I can’t take credit for its continual success! Last year was no exception as it saw record numbers in attendance. The 2015 Tour had 16 artists in 10 studios. If you’re wondering, yes, that’s a lot of artists & studios to visit. Last year’s group of artists was diverse in media, location & careers. I always have a blast traipsing around studios & getting to see the behind-the-scenes of art creation. This year’s Tour will be equally impressive with 14 artists in 7 studios. I hope you join us April 9 & 10, 2016 for another great group of artists!

5. Oklahoma Printmaking Network

In 2013, OKC artist Erin Latham and I commiserated about a lack of networking & statewide communication platforms for Oklahoma printmakers, so we created a Facebook group called the Oklahoma Printmaking Network. After two years of letting it sit, we decided to start coordinating meet ups. Our first meet up was held in November in Tulsa, where we released our call for entries for our first ever statewide printmaking exchange. There, a group of printmakers met and connected, and formed ideas for what was to come. I was privileged to get to meet new artists and learn more about their studio practices. I know 2016 will bring more printmakers together!

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The Santa Fe Railyard during the AHA Festival of the Progressive Arts

4. AHA Festival of the Progressive Arts, September 19, 2015, Santa Fe, NM

After years of applying and getting rejected to opportunities that seemed out of my league, I was surprised to be accepted to the After Hours Alliance’s Festival of the Progressive Arts in Santa Fe. For their 5th annual festival, I was commissioned to complete a body of work and perform at the festival. I exhibited new fiber works, and gave a duration performance of washing dishes. While there, I connected with fellow performance and installation artists from across the region, and got to witness some amazing things going on in Santa Fe.

3. The Unbearable Absence of Landscape, 108 Contemporary, Tulsa, OK

During the last year at OVAC I was able to witness a part of the creation of this large scale knit-bomb project organized by 108 Contemporary, and led by artist romy owens. Throughout the first part of the year, the OVAC office served as one drop off location for knitted squares, which would then be  a part of a tapestry that covered the facade of a building. Though I knew the scale of the project, and saw the creation of it in piecemeal, I couldn’t have imagined the feeling and sensations I would have in viewing the installation in person. I’m not a skilled knitter so I didn’t contribute any squares, but I did help seam some of them together in Tulsa at the annual Oklahoma Arts Conference. There I sat at a table with complete strangers, engrossed in pile of yarn, talking about the intimate details of our lives. Truly, the transformative nature of this project is beyond the covering of the building, but the connections made between participants. I was honored to be able to witness its creation.

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A view of “The Unbearable Absence of Landscape,” a knit-bomb orgnaized by 108 Contemporary in Tulsa, led by artist romy owens

1. & 2. Oklahoma Art Writing & Curatorial Fellowship
The Oklahoma Art Writing & Curatorial Fellowship (OAWCF) takes up the top two slots at my list because it was (and is) more than just a one time experience. For a year, I participated in this one-of-a-kind fellowship with 11 other curators and art writers in the region. We met bi-monthly to dicuss our writings and gain feedback from artists, writers, and curators from around the country. I read. I read a lot. This habit of reading regularly is something I haven’t stopped. I continue to read essays by my cohorts in the program. The dialogue I have had with the fellows and mentors in the program have led to new methodologies in my art practice. I’ve gained new insight into the field as an arts professional, and as an artist.

In conjunction with the private mentorship of the fellowship, OVAC hosted public panels with these mentors. Whether it was learning about the socially engaged projects of Chloë Bass, the curatorial adventures of Chad Alligood, or the academic journey of Dr. Robert Bailey, these panels were inspiring as a young professional in the field of art writing and curating.

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Panel with OAWCF mentors Kirsten Olds, Orit Gat, Buzz Spector and James McAnally (L-R)

In July, I traveled to Omaha with fellow Krystle Brewer to learn about the arts scene there. We conducted studio visits with artists, had tours of art exhibiting institutions, and had long enjoyable coffee and conversations with the arts professionals of the community. Moreover, during the 8 hour drive each way, Krystle and I shared lengthy discussions about ourselves and our work. While I had traveled expecting to meet and get closer to professionals in the region, one of the most valuable experiences was getting closer to a colleague in Oklahoma. I suppose I’m more thankful we didn’t drive each other crazy!

The fellowship officially concluded in  December, and this January’s issue of Art Focus Oklahoma was dedicated to our program, featuring writings from several of the fellows. After a year of honing our curatorial prowess, we debut a curatorial lab project at MAINSITE Contemporary Art in Norman this February. We are mounting three exhibitions concerning the Public Narrative:Story of Self, Us & Now, opening February 12 on the 2nd Friday Art Circuit in Norman.

This program has given me the tools to create, curate, and write about art – and, combined with all my experiences from the past year, I’m ready to do more of all those things in 2016. I hope your upcoming year is filled with lots of art and inspiration!

If you want to add your own Top 10 list, feel free to comment. Happy New Year!