Tuesday, July 12, 2011

TAC’s Tulsa Taboo: More Than Naughty Bits

By Janice McCormick

Untitled, created by the curators of Tulsa Taboo: RC Morrison, Kara Greuel, and Steve Tomlin

The Tulsa Artists’ Coalition call for entries for its Tulsa Taboo asked artists to submit “art that expands boundaries, that asks hard questions, that challenges the status quo.” The resulting juried exhibit proves to be quite diverse, of high aesthetic quality and thought-provoking.  The size of the exhibit (twenty-nine works in all) precludes an in-depth description of each and every one. Hence, this review’s limited aim is to whet the appetite of the reader to come and see how these artists meet this challenge. Tulsa Taboo is on display through July 30th.

The usual “naughty bits” are well represented. Julie Strauss’s shaped copper tubing sculpture High Beams depicts a curvaceous female form, complete with headlights for breasts and a convex mirror for her face. This elegant and witty work in the Art Nouveau style received a Juror’s Choice Award as well as the People’s Choice Award. Clayton Keyes’ ceramic sculpture Circle Jerk consists of ten upwards pointing penises with their testicles, forming a circular enclosure – a sort of sexual Stonehenge celebrating masculine virility. 

Clayton Keyes, Circle Jerk
Political issues cropped in several works. Protest regarding the unjust treatment of Native Americans emerged in two works. Anna Muselmann’s Façade depicts a warrior, whose smiley face hangs askew, revealing his suppressed anger. This work won Best of Show. Talon Micco’s painting Andrew Jackson used the historical portrait of Andrew Jackson, with the word “genocide” painted in red across the bottom.  Red splatters mar the gilded frame. On the local level, John Gaskill skewers the feuding relationship between Tulsa’s mayor Dewey Bartlett and the City Councilors by depicting the politicos torturing one another in his Tulsa Mayor/City Council Coloring Book. Environmental concern meets political satire in Nancy Smart Carlson’s Testing, Testing! Inhofe Testing Worm Holes for Rising Temperatures and Global Warming. This dark cut-away image of the earth reveals a series of meandering worm tracks and a thermometer reading red hot. 

A compact, untitled installation is the result of an anonymous person’s challenge to the art community “…to do something that shows guns and violence should be Taboo.” For two months, this person thrust newspaper and magazine articles on this theme through TAC’s mail slot. The three curators (RC Morrison, Kara Greuel, and Steve Tomlin) decided that they themselves would turn this private cry from the heart into a public experience. They spread the articles and magazines across the top of a small desk, inviting the viewer to pour over them and to read the anonymous person’s annotated comments and underscored phrases, such as “GUNS – GUNS – GUNS,” “Home Invasion,” “Police gun deaths increase in 2009” and “lax laws feed the illegal gun trade.” The desk lamp symbolically shines a light on an issue that many would rather ignore. A pair of scissors and a tape dispenser encourage the viewer to imaginatively cut out more articles and tape them together, thereby making this issue their own. Even more magazines in a partially opened drawer suggest that gun violence will only escalate unless society does something about it.

As these works illustrate, Tulsa Taboo is not to be missed. The gallery is located at 9 East Brady in Tulsa. Its hours are 6pm to 9pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  

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