Visitors to a new art installation at ahha Tulsa got the full rock-star treatment on Friday afternoon.
Wayne Coyne, front man for The Flaming Lips, made an appearance on the first day of the local exhibit of “King’s Mouth,” his band’s immersive art and musical experience.
“You guys did such a good job!” Coyne said to ahha Tulsa staffers upon walking in the front doors and seeing his artwork hanging on the wall and people lined up to crawl inside an interactive sculpture.
“It’s like the Grand Canyon, you just have to be there — words can’t do it justice,” Coyne said, watching museum-goers lying inside the pink-floored mouth of the giant sculpture crafted of silver mylar balloons and aluminum foil.
Inside, visitors donned special glasses to see an LED light show set to hypnotic Flaming Lips music in surround sound.
“Watch your step!” guide Valerie Hall Stinnett called out to a trio of people climbing out of the King’s Mouth onto a ribbon of multi-colored tape encircling the sculpture. “It’s slick stepping off the tongue onto the rainbow.”
Lauren Clark, of Oklahoma City, drove to Tulsa for an evening concert with her two friends Shauna Perlman and Julie Oh, who are visiting from Los Angeles.
“We were just driving around town, looking for something to do,” said Clark, shaking her head in awe at the sight of Coyne, with his shock of curly, salt-and-pepper hair and red, Fair Isle cardigan sweater with big white skulls in the pattern. “We had no idea.”
The Flaming Lips formed in Oklahoma City in 1983. International recognition through the decades has led to three Grammy Awards and being named one of the “50 Bands To See Before You Die” by Q magazine in 2002.
Coyne said making art and music is about the “freedom to say, ‘I like this’ or ‘I like this.’ ” And he said he likes that places like ahha Tulsa exist so people can experience art in places that aren’t stuffy or formal like traditional museums can feel.
“We just keep going — nobody stops us,” he said, of The Flaming Lips and King’s Mouth, watching people come out of the sculpture. “This is the new way — you can be an artist and love it, you can be a musician and love it or you can be a father and his kid and love it. It looks good, it feels good.”
Then he added: “I have the best life ever.”
King’s Mouth had been an interactive party staple at The Womb art complex in Oklahoma City, which was created by The Flaming Lips, since 2011. It made its public debut at The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore in 2015 and was featured at Santa Fe’s iconic Meow Wolf in 2018. Most recently, it has been at Oklahoma City’s Factory Obscura.
The interactive sculpture is in Tulsa for the first time and will be on exhibit at ahha Tulsa, 101 E. Archer St., through May. Access is included with regular admission to ahha Tulsa, which is $12.75 for adults and $8.75 for ages 3-12. Kids under 3 and ahha Tulsa members are free. For more information go to ahhatulsa.org.