Category Archives: Art and Beauty

Yes, Virginia, Oklahoma Has a Hip Hop Scene…

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It wasn’t that long ago that I was strolling through one of our city’s street festivals and noticed something that thrilled me to my core; the music wafting through the air was the NOT earnest, white-boy Americana (not that there’s anything wrong with that) usually found at these gatherings…but rap. (I later found out the artist was Frank Black.)

That hardly ever happens. (Trust me, I have to go to a lot of street festivals. I’m a professional.)

I found my way over to the stage, and in my joy, started chatting up a man next to me, who turned out to be Gregory Jerome, the mind behind Elemental Hip Hop, a youth program that utilizes the four elements of hip hop culture (graffiti, dj-ing, mc-ing, and breaking) to develop open-minded explorations, creative problem-solving, self-confidence and positive self-expression in kids.

He’s also the driving force behind Oklahoma City’s first ever Hip Hop Festival, taking place at the Paramount (701 W. Sheridan) this Friday, September 18 (6-11pm) and Saturday, September 19 (9 a.m. to midnight).

Artists from Oklahoma and beyond will come together to celebrate the art form, and spectators can do more than just spectate; interaction will be possible in the form of a graffiti wall and b-boy (and girl) battles among other things.

If you love hip hop, if you’d like to encourage an atmosphere in Oklahoma City that broadens the common culture just a little…then come out and support the effort.

It’s Winding Down…Visit the Elaborate Collaborate While You Can!

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 “Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”― L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz

Maybe some of you Okie readers missed the opening of the Elaborate Collaborate at IAO Gallery in Oklahoma City.

Maybe you didn’t go during the weeks of active collaboration, and see artists at work, adding their own unique flavor to this one-of-a-kind exhibit. (Which you can read about here, if you’re behind in following my blog. Get your priorities together, by the way.)

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Maybe–and I’m really, really sad for you if this is true–you missed the awesome Exquisite Corpse Poetry Event hosted by the incredible Kerri Shadid.

Elaborate Collaborate 5Because there were adult beverages, and poetry games like the ones the Surrealists used to start the whole exquisite corpse thang, and a convergence of conviviality that probably only Kerri Shadid can bring. (For those of you who don’t believe that poetry can be an interactive party of the heart, go visit Kerri’s show ”Playground of Curiosity” October 2-31 at The Project Box in Paseo, and make a special effort to attend the October 29th closing reception, which will include a Surrealist Poetry Game Night.)

Elab Collab Collage

We constructed poems from words cut from books, nonsensical sentences passed to one another, and other word puzzles that stoked creativity and let us simply make a mess, the way we did in Kindergarten. (And some of us got up and read them out loud in front of people!)

So, I’m sorry if you missed any of those elements from the Elaborate Collaborate, but there’s still time to squeak in and see the wonderful results. The closing reception is this Friday, August 14th, and if you come out to the August 21st Premiere on Film Row, you can combine some good food truck fare with one last visit before the August 22nd closing.

I really think you should.

An Event Like No Other: Elaborate Collaborate

Elaborate Collaborate

Elaborate Collaborate image by Tim Hearn

I get to do a lot of cool things, as a food/art/entertainment/fitness writer.

Whether it’s eating at some of my city’s best upscale establishments, trying new physical endeavors for a fitness feature, or getting paid to watch (and write about) movies, I really have a swell deal.

I could say that all of those things are equally great, and that it’s just my career as a writer that is so fulfilling, and that would be true. Just like mothers don’t have favorites among their children, I have a fondness for all of the subjects in my rotation, and my basic love of writing is what makes this so satisfying as a pursuit.

But I would be lying to you if I didn’t admit that art is special.

One of my latest assignments for Slice magazine was an article about a truly unique endeavor coming to IAO Gallery in Oklahoma City this month (July 17th). The curators behind it (romy owens and Kelsey Karper) are enthusiastic about the project and bringing new and exciting art exhibits to OKC, and the exhibit is free to the public…what more can you ask for?

Go read the article (and subscribe to the print version of Slice–a gorgeous publication) and plan on visiting the exhibit at some point during its five week stretch at IAO Gallery.

“Art is literacy of the heart.” – Elliot Eisner

The Art of Sarah Collier, a.k.a., The Charm School Dropout

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I’m not a yearly regular at the Arts Council of OKC’s Festival of the Arts.

(Is that a horrible thing for a blogger who partially centers on art to admit?)

It’s crowded, the food is overpriced (although always delicious), there’s the whole parking situation…some years, I just don’t go.

When I do, however, I’m always reminded of what a powerful experience it can be, to connect with artists on a personal level. (Or with their spouses, or enlisted helpers, if you happen to stroll by their tent during a bathroom break.)

This year, a couple of people caught my eye, but no one arrested my attention like The Charm School Dropout.

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Collier’s images are arresting, both for their vivid use of color and the juxtapositioning (I really tried to think of a different word to use, but unfortunately that ridiculously pretentious term is sometimes the only thing that can express, well…juxtapositioning) of iconic American cultural images with literary references. (The print I bought is enough to make me cry every time I look at it. Three Shakespeare quotes that could be be proclaimed my mission statement for life, alongside a Grace Kelly-esque woman in an evening dress.)

Cowboys. Candy. Guns. Evening gowns. Astronauts. Super heroes. Frida Kahlo. Horses.

Sound bytes that make you go…”huh”.

Word play that doubles as cultural commentary. (One piece featuring a beautiful woman in a bathing suit is set up like a postcard to read, “Weather is Beautiful…WIsh You Were Her.”)

One of art’s most powerful qualities is that it can connect us, through time and across multiple barriers. You can see an image and think, “Yes. I get it.” (You can also be amazed by something that totally baffles you. But that’s fodder for another post.)

I told Collier’s husband, “I think your wife might be one of my soul mates.” (I’m not sure what he thought of that, although he laughed politely and showed me where to go pay for my print.)

It’s a great experience, to connect with art and an artist on a personal level, as I said in the beginning of this post. And I’ll remember that next year, when I’m tempted to stay home and park for free, instead of living out that truth at the Festival of the Arts.

Visit The Charm School Dropout website to see more of Sarah Collier’s art.

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Receiving Gifts: An Art Story

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For those of you who don’t know, I love art.

It’s more than that…I need it.

My kids know that some family trips will be built around certain city’s art museums, and my friends understand that my love of movies and books isn’t just entertainment, it’s a part of life.

So when I tell you this story, keep that in mind.

A very dear friend of mine is an artist. (Actually, more than a few of my loved ones are artists of various sorts. I love creative people and seem to gravitate towards them. Although I am also drawn towards the cranky, stoic, UNartistic types, so…maybe that’s extraneous information. I have a wide variety in my circle, let’s say.)

At a recent “art day” at his house (read; his wonderful wife fed us lunch and then she and I sat and watched while he brought in piece after piece of his for me to examine, basically treating me to my own personal exhibit of his work), I was thrilled by everything he showed me (the first time I’d seen a large body of his art), but the above painting just struck a chord in my heart.

I asked to see a few of them a second time, but this one, I just stared at, finally declaring it to be my favorite. I thought it was one of the most beautiful, interesting, and joyous things I’d ever seen. It’s also quite different from his other work–a few of his pieces are singular in that regard, representing departures from his usual, more realistic style, which only proves the depth of his talent, in my eyes. (I agree with Leonardo da Vinci that “…it reflects no great honor on a painter to be able to execute only one thing well”) It seemed…well, not out of character, but representative of an element of his character not often seen. Which always delights me.

So, I was dumbstruck when he said, “If you could pick one, to have, would that be it?”

I struggle with accepting things from people. A lifetime of trying not to be “too much trouble”, of feeling as if I have to keep the tally marks on each side of various relationship registers balanced…it’s always made me hesitant to take things I know I can’t repay easily.

Or at all, in a case like this.

That’s why, at first, I balked. (I actually got teary-eyed, and then I stammered something about it being too much.)

But then something happened, and after realizing that he truly wanted to give it to me, I took it.

Enthusiastically.

During the time it was being framed, during the custody exchange when he brought it to my house (where I made assurances about protecting it until it was hung on the wall–a Greek epic all its own that involved a ladder, my son, his girlfriend, a tape measure, math, and lots of swearing), I was just as amazed by my feeling of entitlement to that beautiful work of art as I was to the idea that something so fantastic was going to be in my possession.

Because I felt, inexplicably and fully, that it was meant to be mine.

This is what he told me; on the day he painted it, he was on his way TO THE TRASHCAN with the canvas, in frustration about what had transpired on it up to that point, and had a change of heart at the last minute. He went back inside and just (in his words) went for broke and emptied the paintbox onto it.

The above was the result, an hour and a half later.

I believe it was made for me.

It’s always amazed me, that a painter can pour so much of himself or herself into a work, and then let it go. As a writer, I have it easy; not only is the work I produce mine, but if and when it gets published (in a shiny magazine or book), it can be shared without being lost to me. I get the recognition and appreciation, and still get to paw through hard copies of my own articles whenever I want. (Not that…I do that…often…or anything. That’s also not the case when ghostwriting, which we can talk about another time.)

A painter is giving you a gift when creating a painting. Everyone who sees it, whether they like it–whether they appreciate it–or not, has been the recipient of something primal and spiritual, that came from another person’s mind. A representation of beauty, meant to be shared in a sacrificial way. (Unless the painter is keeping everything and just inviting you to their house, which is rare).

To succeed, he/she has to share. Has to give away.

We owe a debt to artists.

Yes, we should be grateful to those who protect us, those who guide the governments and provide us with food and other necessities. But we also should be cultivating in ourselves and our children an appreciation for those who give the world art, and remind us on a regular basis of the beauty–both great and terrible–that life can hold. You may or not believe in God, and so my usual lecture about creativity pointing to our having been made in the image of a Creator may fall short, but if that’s the case, simply think of it as a unifying thread in human experience. Even when our forebears lived in caves, they painted images to tell stories, and communicate experience. It’s a fundamental part of who we are.

There are several things I tell this story to say.

Be willing to consider yourself worthy of good gifts, because you are.

Be thankful for all of the artists throughout history who have given all of us wonderful gifts to ponder, and pore over. Consider yourself worthy of them…while still appreciating the sacrifice that art often represents, for the artist.

Be willing to take chances and “go for broke”, creatively, as my friend put it. You could be creating something for someone else.

(Also, be hesitant to toss things in the trash.)

I’m incredibly grateful for the individual who, in this particular point in time, was open to the deep whim that moved him to create a masterpiece, something that has beautified my life, and enriched the atmosphere in my home.

Thank an artist today, even if it’s just in your own mind, for what they do for the rest of us.