Six Tulsa artists have been selected to create ahha Tulsa’s next “Experience,” the second in a proposed series of immersive, interactive, multimedia, family-friendly art installations that will fill the second floor of the organization’s Hardesty Arts Center.
The artists — Andy Arkley, Justice David Gutierrez, Katherine Hair, Alton Markham, Emily Simonds and John White — took part in an event Thursday at the center, 101 E. Archer St., to announce the new project.
The artists responded to an open call for Oklahoma-based artists to submit proposals, which were reviewed by an independent jury to choose this year’s participants.
The original “Experience,” which opened June 30, 2018, will continue on display through December. Work will begin on the new “The Experience: Imagine” in early 2020, and will open to the public in May.
While “The Experience: Imagine” will, like its predecessor, consist mainly of individual, independent installations, the artists for the new exhibit plan to include collaborative elements within the whole.
“We’re going to find ways to the make the transitions between the installations a little more seamless,” Markham said. “I think there will be visual or narrative cues to help that.”
“The ideas and themes that everyone has come up with all have a kind of otherworldly quality to them, like in a dream,” White added.
White will be working with Simonds on “The Moebius,” an apocalyptic concept in which viewers must navigate a strange new Earth.
“Originally, this was just my submission,” White said. “Emily and I had met some years ago and shared interests in prop and costume design, science fiction and comics, which have been a part of my work.”
However, when White was assigned a larger space within the exhibit than he had planned for, “I knew I couldn’t do this on my own, so I asked her to join me as co-lead artist.”
Arkley, whose work often combines visual, musical and animation art, said his contribution to “The Experience,” “We Are Here,” will be a collaborative, interactive piece that will make use of music, video and sculpture.
“It will have four control panels set up in the space, with buttons that people can use to control what happens,” he said. “I want to try to create that positive feeling people can have when they work together, like musicians when they collectively get into a groove.”
Gutierrez’s work includes short films, and his installation, “Synthia’s Slide,” will attempt to give “the sense of walking through a narrative, as if you are inside of a children’s book or a video game. The interactive element will help people progress through the story.”
Markham said he likes to use new technologies to re-create and reimagine older art forms. His piece, “The Unclaimed Throne of Limitless Insights,” will also attempt to “merge all these ways of telling stories.”
“I’ve done a lot of virtual reality work when I was in school,” he said. “One thing people always complained about was the headset one had to wear and how clunky it was. This installation will be like taking the VR headset off and being completely surrounded by a narrative.”
Hair is best known for paintings that take a slightly surreal and whimsical approach to wildlife.
“My piece for ‘The Experience’ will be a bit like stepping into one of my paintings,” she said. “I’ve always been enchanted by natural history museums and always wanted to be able to step into those displays, to move through them.
“So my piece (‘Organism’) will bring a bit of nature indoors,” Hair said. “The perspective will give viewers the sense of being very large, or very small, within these settings.”
Amber Litwack, director of education and exhibitions for ahha Tulsa, said the organization has been extremely pleased with the response to the first “The Experience.”
“Our attendance, during the run of the exhibit, has been up 184%,” she said. “We suspected that Tulsa was hungry for something like this, and the way the city has responded shows that to be the case.”
White said the success of the first “Experience” has been a source of inspiration.
“We really have to raise the bar,” he said. “The first ‘Experience’ was something special, and now, we have to live up to people’s expectations. It’s exciting to be a part of something as big as this.”
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