Outside of killing Applebee’s, Millennials get a bad rap. For their general skepticism of the world and what they’ve been told about their places in it. Also for their predilection for avocado toast. But beyond all the stereotypes are some brilliant, young Oklahoma minds creating contemporary art that serves as a cultural time capsule of now.
Alyson Atchison and Patrick Reynolds, co-curators of ArtNow 2019, have cultivated a snapshot of contemporary art practice through the lens of 23 Okie artists — including a number of Millennials. Here’s a look at six of them, whose one-of-a-kind works are on exhibit at Oklahoma Contemporary*, through a closing event on Friday, January 18.
1. ALEXIS AUSTIN | Oklahoma City
Alexis Austin studied studio art at Oklahoma City University and fashion design at Columbia College in Chicago. In addition to painting, she is a photographer and personal chef. Holy Instagram, that’s very Millennial.
“Producing what I do gives me a feeling, and if I have a goal at all, it is maybe to invoke feelings and thought in others,” Austin says. “My paintings can be quite dark and a little sardonic. I think it is important to acknowledge the scared parts of us or the secret feelings we don’t share with others.”
2. STEVEN CREAD BAYLISS | Edmond
The paintings on wood panel by Steven Cread Bayliss—not to be confused with relation to Skip Bayless, Rick Bayless or Apollo Cread—range from more classical techniques, such as egg tempera, to the airbrushing and pinstriping found in the design and production of motorcycles and automobiles. His combination of text and visual imagery sets up a conversation between a word’s meaning and a specific object, often including images of cars that have a personal significance to him.
While some of these combinations are intended to be more obvious or humorous, others rely on the viewer’s personal experience to fill in the space between word and object. So don’t blame him, if you see Weather Dongs streaking through his work. Bayliss has been exploring this aspect of his studio practice for the past 12 years and continues to find it a rich source for his painting practice.
3. MONTY LITTLE | Tulsa
Monty Little is a 2015 graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is currently an artist fellow at the Tulsa Artist Fellowship. Little’s prints selected for ArtNow are a re-thinking of Edward S. Curtis’s early 20th century photographs of Native Americans. Curtis was both an intrepid genius and a jerk, whose portraits were staged, artificially constructing Native American identity. Little turns this notion on its head—my favorite of the anti-establishment Millenial pasttimes—by incorporating the colors and motifs of Modernism to allude to a more contemporary read of traditional and contemporary Native American identity.
Little’s work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally.
4. KATHARINE NORTON | Tulsa
Katharine Norton is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography at the University of Tulsa. We might be worried about that BFA degree, if she weren’t so damn talented. Her photographic work explores identity and how it is expressed through aspects of family history, community and connection. Her photographic series, A Great Man, tells the story of her grandfather’s life through images of personal relics that he gathered from childhood until death.
Norton says, “I have always been drawn to themes of family and history in my work, as well as how these ideas can be expressed through personal belongings.” It’s not hoarding if you’re creating art.
5. JOSHUA ROSS | Oklahoma City
Joshua Ross started his career as a professional tattooer in 2005, after dropping out of the Art Institute of California in San Diego. Art school was bogus, man, and tattooing was just the teacher Spicoli Ross needed. In 2011, he began traveling around the U.S., which gained him some momentum and allowed him to hone in on his style and approach. He has now settled in Oklahoma City, where he won’t get arrested for his weed. Ross works full time at Atomic Lotus Tattoo; he has been able to focus and find his real voice as an artist.
“My focus is on Japanese tattooing and painting,” Ross says. “This style of art translates well to the human form and can cover large sections of the body, which suits my preferred size and scale of work. With respect always to the art forms of Japanese tradition, I aim to approach an ancient subject matter with a new voice.”
6. SARAH SULLIVAN | Tulsa
Sarah Sullivan is a fiber artist, muralist and everything in between. Her work is an escape to a world of abstract confetti of color and texture inspired by pasta noodles, children’s books and outer space. Her work has been scientifically proven to make your home warmer, more colorful and a beacon for alien visitation.
“The personality of each piece is essential,” Sullivan says. “Whether the life of the party or just a welcome friend, my work hopefully transports people to a place of pure, simple joy (an underrated emotion, in my opinion). I use traditional craft to create a world of youth, comfort and whimsy. With a modern palate and a graphic eye, I hope to give society a break from clutter and chaos by providing art that one can literally wrap around themselves.”
*Oklahoma Contemporary is a TLO advertiser and we love them for it.
P.S. Art-loving tastemakers and cocktail-sippers: I’ll see you on Friday night at the ArtNow closing party, where these and works from other Oklahoma-based contemporary artists will be available for purchase. Funds raised help keep Oklahoma Contemporary exhibitions open free of charge, year-round.