Ah, Oklahoma City in the fall: once empty box stores are temporarily reborn as Halloween supply stores; changing foliage and college football supporters compete to fill the landscape with reds and oranges; outsized pumpkins roll onto outsized lawns in historic neighborhoods. There’s something invigorating in the air. With another oppressive summer behind us and the holidays coming quickly, fall here is also a time of gallery shows, art events, and festivals; notable among them: The Girlie Show.
For its eighth year, this event returns to the Farmer’s Public Market Building at 311 S. Klein on November 4 and 5, bringing what organizers describe as “art, creativity, craftsmanship and funk” to an audience of thousands.
The artists, artisans, and designers of the Girlie Show offer everything from professional photography and printmaking to handmade jewelry and bags. They hail from Ada, Edmond, Dallas, and Brooklyn, to name just a few. They may be current students, professional artists, or those beginning a second career. These diverse artisans have one thing in common: all of the vendors at the Girlie Show are women. If you haven’t been before and think that a show featuring only women artists might look like any one specific thing, think again- the variety of art here is always a fun and eclectic mix.
This year, as in the past, Friday will feature a party-like atmosphere from 7:00 to 11:00pm, with DJs spinning upbeat dance music. On Saturday, the entertainment will be provided by local singer-songwriters, creating a comfortable and inviting atmosphere with a bluesy/ folksy/ rock-sy backdrop from noon until five o’clock.
(editors note: rock-sy is not a word, but it should be, so I’m leaving it in. Deal with it, AP!- Colin)
People of all ages and genders are welcome on both days.
So, what is new for 2011? Lots of artists, for one thing. I recently spoke with several of this year’s new vendors:
Edmond artist Lisa Lee makes a visual splash with her photography. Not only does its vibrant color palette and complex surface draw viewers closer, Lee often employs a larger-than-life scale: typical works range from 30” x 40” to 60” x 60”. She prefers this size for its ability to make viewers really pause and study the work. “I like that when the viewer stands in front of a larger work of art, they really take time and interact with it.” she says about her large works, “They stop and get closer and closer, as if they’re thinking, ‘what is this?’ “
Despite the large scale of many of her photos, most source images are taken on Lee’s cell phone, and manipulated using apps and software before being printed. The digital manipulation effectively disorients, and the results are compelling, complex mosaics of color.
Beyond the complex surfaces, subject matter is crucial to Lee’s work. “I’ll often use Spanish or Mexican images, as a way to explore my own heritage. I am Mexican, but I was adopted by a family who isn’t,” she tells me. “I am really interested in exploring and learning about this culture in my work.” An example of this is the image Solar Deity. The title of the piece is a reference to Mayan religious iconography, and the visual inspiration came from a public mural. “The photograph this is based on was taken in Mexico. There are blank walls in some cities, specifically set aside for artists to paint on. Every month, they will paint over the murals and new artists will have a clean slate.”
Although a first-time artist here, Lee has volunteered at the event for the past few years. It was this experience that encouraged her to apply as an artist. “I love what it stands for and I had a fun time each time I’ve volunteered. I thought, why not participate?”
Kingfisher’s Robin Wolf creates pottery echoes her family’s long relationship with Oklahoma. Wolf’s brothers and cousins still farm on a family homestead that was first founded in 1889, and she was raised helping with her uncle’s annual wheat harvest.
Her profound connection to the landscape reads clearly in her pottery, with its dusty sage greens, deep ruddy browns, and golden ochres, as well as her use of bones and wood in her handles. “When I look out over the Cimarron River, I am astounded by the variety of landscapes and vegetation.” She reflects that variety in her pottery.
Despite the lifelong influences that shape her pieces, Wolf is relatively new as an artist. After devoting two decades to raising her daughters- during which time she did not practice any art- she plunged herself into her art career without a second thought. Six years later, Wolf has worked carefully to build a client and show base that allows her passion to be a career.
Her working style- driven, self-sufficient, and confident- is reflected in her personality, and in the equal value she places on form and function. “I have an unwavering requirement for my work to be functional,” she says, noting that every vessel and dish is food-safe and able to hold solids or liquids. Her commitment to quality at every step does not end there: “I compound all of my own glazes, hammer my own copper lids, do all of the woodworking on the handles.”
Wolf is no shrinking violet and embraces challenges as she progresses. “The most telling portion of my personality,” she offers, “is that although I had never seen a gas kiln fired, I did some research and set to building my own kiln after just reading about it.“ This seems to be going quite well: “At this point, after over 100 firings, I have not burned anything down, blown anything up, or melted any work.”
Her passion doesn’t end at her artwork. “My girls showed horses for years,” she says, explaining her personal ties to the annual Morgan horse show. It is an environment that she enjoys, and one that is also important to her as an exhibit venue- “Lots of east coast money comes to town for that event.” Indeed, enthusiasts come from all over the world, as Wolf learned recently talking with a show attendee. When a woman complimented her artwork, Wolf struck up a conversation and asked if she was an artist herself. The visitor replied yes. “I asked her what kind of work she does and she paused for a second, then answered, ‘I sculpt the Queen.’”
The woman was Angela Conner. A one-time assistant to Barbara Hepworth, Conner is most well-known for her busts of royalty and also for her larger, kinetic sculptures. Wolf was bowled over by the encounter. “And here she is in Oklahoma City, just bopping around in riding clothes!”
Wolf said the experience reinforced her belief that every encounter, every possible venue, has value to her work as an artist.
Laurie Ingalls- Lumpy Bits
Look a little closer at the fuzzy masks and toys created by Laurie Ingalls of Lumpy Bits, and a less cheery aspect creeps into focus. Unicorns, owls, masks, hearts, and cuddly “monsters” beckon from afar. Up close, there is something unsettling. Is it the bulging, asymettrical eyes? the gaping mouths? the bright-colored clown mask titled Gacy?
When a stuffed animal designer participates in an art event called Horrorgasm, it seems apparent that this darker undercurrent is intentional. This work is clearly more than meets the eye.
However, Ingalls gives an oblique denial that the “creepiness” is explicit. “They are intended to be cute, but,” Ingalls comments with a laugh, “they always come out looking a bit darker.”
The idea for these stuffed creatures were born when Ingalls was 17, and she and a friend would meet and learn to sew together. The first category- the monsters- developed soon thereafter. Although all of these works fall into distinct categories or editions, every creation is one of a kind. The exact materials, shapes, and stitches differ from creature to creature, and set each one apart. Once complete, the figures are identified by a name. The names are just as inspired as the fabric sculptures: “I name them after everything from rockstars to supervillains.” On her etsy shop, recently sold creations Barbara, Cotton, Starburst, and Nostradamus give vacant toothy stares of approval.
Lumpy Bits can be found around town outside of the Girlie Show, too- DNA Galleries in Okalhoma City keeps her creatures in stock. It was DNA’s Amanda Bradway who first encouraged Ingalls to apply for The Girlie Show.
Casey Melton and Shannah Frank- F is for Frank
Dallas based f is for frank bring a playful edginess to The Girlie Show through playful pewter jewelry, accessories, and housewares. Casey Melton and Shannah Frank- artists with training in jewelry and sculpture processes- are the two creative powers behind this business.
A light-hearted and experimental approach to texture and scale characterizes their jewelry. Rings are often two or three inches in diameter, and the surfaces of pendants and belt buckles are made to resemble everything from rough burlap, wood grain, or even alligator skin to more traditional polished pieces. Melton and Frank state that much of their inspiration comes from the natural world, but truly, anything in their path might become fodder for their next creation. Forms for casting one ring was described as “wrapping a rubber band around a piece of wood.”
Oversize, audacious, elegant, and sometimes whimsical- this jewelry makes a statement.
And jewelry is only about half of the work made by this team. The catalogue of f is for frank goes quite deep- knobs for drawers, unique wedding items, cuff links, – all of these have their own category on the website. Beyond what is available, Frank and Melton are always willing to work with clients who need custom pieces. “A lot of interior designers come to us,” says Melton. “Pretty much all of the work we do for them- architectural elements, lighting- it’s all custom.”
The two Dallas artisans are looking forward to showing at The Girlie Show as a chance to build a presence in Oklahoma.
Their studio is currently in an industrial area of Dallas, where they make- by hand- everything that goes out under the f is for frank label.
Nikki Halgren- Gleeful Peacock
Nikki Halgren also specializes in jewelry and accessories, but her metal comes already formed. Working under the name Gleeful Peacock, Halgren specializes in painting metal and combining it with colorful fabric scraps into headbands, hairclips, necklaces, and other unique accessories.
“I started painting everything in the house that wasn’t tied down,” she laughs, remembering her early creative impulses. “Everything I could get my hands on.” She prefers bright, cheery surroundings, and enjoys creating them herself.
She turned to jewelry-making when she discovered that she couldn’t find accessories that fit her style. “I wanted things to be colorful, to not blend in, not hide… I was looking for jewelry that was ‘me.’” She decided that making the kind of accessories she was seeking would be easier and quicker than waiting for someone else to do it, and she embarked on a creative career.
Her first show was two years ago, at Deluxe: Indie Emporium. Her work is now stocked at Collected Thread in the Plaza District. After talking with other Deluxe vendors, she had heard nothing but positives about participation in The Girlie Show. “I finally said: What the heck?”
The metal shapes of Halgren’s work look vintage, adding a nostalgic layer to her bright, contemporary palette. Flowers and concentric shapes frame bronze-patina chains, clasps, and vivid fabric pieces, and the elements blend together as if they were meant to be, seamlessly.
Halgren’s effusive positive attitude is as arresting as her jewelry. Her website’s tagline: “Creating a happy and colorful life,” is a personal mission that Halgren seems to truly inhabit.
Her love for the work she makes is never more apparent than when she talks about creating custom orders for weddings, events, or specific people. “I make lots of custom pieces- I LOVE them! I love knowing that the client had a hand in the creative process. I love looking at a finished piece and knowing it came from two people… It gives it a real connection.”
Halgren also believes in the connection that comes in general from handmade items. People might have the option to buy cheaper items made by machine, but the independent artists and designers at the Girlie Show have loyal followers who appreciate the time and craft that goes into making a one-of-a-kind creation. “These things are really coming from people’s souls. People put their heart into making these items. That’s why people buy handmade.”
These five new artists each bring a distinct voice and a unique story to this year’s Girlie Show. In addition to these artists, this year’s show features returning favorites like DNA Galleries’ Amanda Bradway, Norman painter Brooke Rowlands, Tulsa printmaker Christina Sharp-Crowe and show founder Marilyn Artus.
Walk up close to the booths, examine the work for sale, and strike up a conversation. As different as the art on display are the stories that have brought each woman to become a participating artist. To attend any event is to lend your support to what you like and want to see in the city. Supporting this show means making a place for creative women in our city. Come, shop, and have a great time in the company of amazing women.