Julie Peppito’s work blends 2D and children’s toys in “Nature, Fashion & War." Photos by Madison Connell

First Friday succeeds despite inclement weather

On the first Friday of every month, the Tulsa Arts District comes to life with a slew of new galleries.

Local art lovers braved almost-freezing temperatures and strong winds to see this month’s First Friday Art Crawl.

The art crawl, around for over ten years, has become a staple of Tulsa. It is a free art experience for those of all ages in the Tulsa Arts District.

While temperatures were unpleasant at best, the crowds went undeterred. The Guthrie Green stage remained unused last Friday night and very few street performers attended, but it was probably for the best, given most people were bustling between art venues.

The Philbrook Downtown was my first stop of the night. The two main events were Rena Detrixhe’s “Red Dirt Rug” and the exhibit “Spider Woman Was Here.”

“Spider Woman Was Here” featured different artists, mostly from the last century or so, of Diné (also known as Navajo) cultural origin. There was a blurb on the wall about how, to their people, weaving is a spiritual act in the pursuit of balance, beauty and harmony.

One aspect of this exhibit that set it apart from others concentrating on textiles or weaving is that there was a wall of patches of textile on a keyring for viewers to feel while walking through the room. It made it so much more interactive, and it satisfied the crawler’s desire to reach out and feel everything, especially for the children in attendance.

Even though the interactive aspect of “Spider Woman Was Here” interested crowds, the piece in the next room, “Red Dirt Rug” stole the spotlight. Detrixhe created her piece by sifting through the famous red dirt of Oklahoma and working on little patches of her piece until it covered the entire area of the large gallery floor in Philbrook Downtown.

Her piece used the soles of tennis shoes to make the intricate designs, symbolic of significant Oklahoman events such as the Trail of Tears and the Dust Bowl. It was stimulating to the native Oklahomans in the room.

The second gallery of the night was 108 Contemporary. Their gallery was called “Variations on the Theme of Loss: Emily Chase and Tali Weinberg.”

For a second exhibit in a row, I saw Weinberg battle with textiles, although not as successfully as the exhibit prior. Beside each of her works, she listed facts of how she made the textile and facts about the world, such as “137 years annual average temperature for the globe,” which somehow worked into her pieces but wasn’t evident whatsoever in its composition. The muted colors faded into the environment and overall evoked no emotion.

The second half of the exhibit, however, was one of the better parts of the night. Chase presented sculptures created out of paper, well put by 108 Contemporary in that she “explore[s] ideas about the growth and disintegration of memory and identity.”

One of my favorites of hers was “Until (Seeds).” It featured a red hoodie with sunflowers peeking out of the hood as well as the elongated pocket. “Until (Seeds)” brought an image of a transgender girl trying to come to terms with her identity, maybe attempting to hide it with the sunflowers or her femininity overgrowing and demanding to be let known.

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Emily Chase’s “Until (Seeds)” reflects on the difficulties faced by transgender individuals.

Another popular piece, “Everyday Dress (Chronic),” reused a disposable hospital gown to make this beautiful blue dress with white flowers embroidered on it with roots and thorns shooting out of the top. This sculpture represented someone that is chronically sick and is in pain below her pretty little adaptation to the often-hideous required hospital attire, despite her trying her best to make everything look fine from the outside. I definitely related to this piece more than most of the pieces last Friday night because I too suffer with chronic illnesses and know how it feels to live day to day with it externally shown, like the symbol of the hospital gown.

Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education housed work by Daniel W. Coburn in his “From the Hereditary Estate” collection. Each piece was a black and white picture. The vast majority of these were portraits. They ranged from clear despair to wonder and enjoyment.

One impressive picture illustrated this sheet, seemingly held up by a ghost. It appeared organic, not just held up by invisible strings. I can’t imagine how many times it would take to either prop it or throw it up in such a way to make it look the way it did. The white sheet appeared to almost be alive, jumping back in fright away from a keyboard and the negative impact of technology and society as a whole.

Living Arts of Tulsa showcased two exhibits: “Impasse” by Megan Mosholder and “Nature, Fashion & War” by Julie Peppito.

Mosholder’s neon work was underwhelming by itself, but with a group of friends could potentially be interesting for a fun few minutes to admire the bright colors created with the black lights while laying on some pillows set on the ground.

On the other hand, Peppito’s work had the opposite effect. The vast majority of her work featured a bright array of colors in 3D. Living Arts said that her exhibit “draw[s] connections between the human desire to want more of everything versus the destructive impact our consumerism has on the environment and the survival of our species.”

Peppito’s work looked as if a rainbow and the toy aisle at a supermarket threw up on a 3D campus. Although her work was a little out there and hard to understand, it drew some of the most attention. The numerous children’s items and tapestries worked together in a frantic but organic manner.

The few black and white 2D pieces of Peppito’s work ended up receiving more attention because of the stark contrast between the two styles, as well as because they were much easier to discern what was happening in them. The 2D works exposed more of Peppito’s political opinion, such as one where a politician is seen saying in speech bubbles that “your safe drinking water and clean air are in the way of my freedom to lie, cheat, and get rich.”

I last viewed the galleries at the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa Hardesty Arts Center and their intriguing interactive exhibits. The most interesting of these was three different school desks that allowed the crawlers to chew a piece of gum and stick it onto the bottoms of these pieces of furniture. It was a blast for most to be able to satisfy that rebellious desire to do such without a destructive purpose. The pieces couldn’t have come at a better time with the teacher strikes, so it made it that much more personal to those around it.

With so many galleries to choose from, it is almost impossible to hit all of them in a single First Friday. Some I did not manage to hit include the Brady Artists Studio, Colors of Etnika, Made, Mainline Art Bar, TAF Refinery and the Woody Guthrie Center. Several restaurants and bars in the area also have minor art showings such as Bar 46, Chimera, Gypsy Coffeehouse and Cyber Cafe and Hey Mambo.

While the experience of weaving in and out of different buildings while freezing rain poured down on me was slightly miserable, I am happy I attended the First Friday Art Crawl to see so many unique perspectives of these Oklahomans. To those who have never been to this event, I would highly recommend going with a group of friends and making a night out of it, exploring parts of downtown you have never visited before.

Post Author: Madison Connell