How do you see Tulsa?
That is the question Living Arts of Tulsa posed to local artists earlier this year.
And the answers that about 100 artists gave to the question will go on display Friday, when the third “Oh, Tulsa!” biennial exhibit opens.
The idea behind “Oh, Tulsa!” is straightforward: Artists had to have some tie to Tulsa and were requested to submit works that dealt with some aspect of the city — its people, history, politics, geography, mythology — the good as well as the bad.
Artist Diane Salamon, who served as chairwoman of the 2015 exhibit, said: “It’s been interesting watching this show come together. The previous ‘Oh, Tulsa!’ show had a fairly strong political element to it, with a lot of pieces that dealt with some of the darker elements of Tulsa.
“That isn’t so prevalent this time,” she said. “There’s a lot more individualism in this year’s show, with the artists presenting their own, very personal take on how they see Tulsa.”
Some artists see the landscape as it is. The title of Devin Howell’s painting of an undeveloped stretch of road, “36.1606043, -93.9835729,” refers to the geographic coordinates of that scene.
Chuck Williams made use of drone technology to create the two images in his “They Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used To” series — bird’s-eye views of the pinnacles of the Philtower building and Mid-Continent Tower, and Lori Abrams Rauchwerger takes a more conventional view of the skyline with her “Tulsa Towers.”
Others take a slightly more whimsical or satiric look at the city. The official state pastime — watching severe storms being tracked by radar — is neatly captured in Tony Powles’ “Springtime in Tulsa,” and Wayne Kruse lampoons the continual road construction in “Mark Rothko’s Road Triptych to Tulsa.”
“A number of the works also reference the city’s history with the oil business,” Salamon said. “It’s like there is a nostalgia for those years when Tulsa was the ‘Oil Capital of the World,’ the excitement that brought to the city, and the loss that’s been felt in the years since.”
These include Salamon’s own work in the show — a collage of paintings, clippings from the Tulsa World’s business section and other objects — titled “Never Underestimate the Power of the Golden Driller,” as well as Price Jones’ “Heart of Black Gold.”
The city’s Art Deco heritage is captured in Jean Ann Fausser’s “Tulsa Rising” and Roger Tice’s “Tulsa Blooms,” a stunning bowl constructed of small wood blocks.
“He’s an artist whose work I was unfamiliar with, and that piece just blew me away,” said Living Arts executive director Steve Liggett. “That is one of the good things about a show like this — it’s a way to give some artists a starting point to get their work before the public, or to introduce artists to a new audience.”
The 2015 “Oh, Tulsa!” was judged by Julia Kirt, former executive director of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition who now heads the advocacy group Oklahomans for the Arts.
“We wanted to keep the show to about 100 pieces, to be able to showcase each individual work,” Salamon said. “The quality of what we have on display is so good, we wanted to make sure that the display wasn’t so crowded that things would get lost.”