Summer Wheat’s exhibition at Oklahoma Contemporary is a homecoming. Born and raised in Oklahoma City, she returned this year to serve as an artist-in-residence and to create pieces that are site specific for our gallery.
Wheat says she “searches history from a material and conceptual point of view,” with Johannes Vermeer’s The Milkmaid at the heart of the inquiry for this specific exhibition. “I look inside the space of the painting and ask questions about what is hidden from the viewer. Such as: What was under her table? What’s inside her pocket? What’s happening in the next room? How can I recreate her spaces as if she lived today? I reinvent this painted character by building installations of her domestic spaces, each exhibit part of an evolving parafictional world.”
Using the milkmaid as a point of departure, Wheat builds installations that use architectural space to depict her interiority and individuality. She wants to expand the milkmaid “beyond the two-dimensional plane and reveal the world behind her white kitchen wall.”
Pry the Lid Off, presented at Oklahoma Contemporary, depicts the four rooms of the maid’s personal chambers, a vault filled with her clothes, dish cabinets and tapestries.
Previously the maid’s rooms have been re-created in exhibitions and works such as Mudroom (2012) and Walk-In Pantry (2015). Of Pantry, installed in New York City’s Fridman Gallery, Hyperallergic said, “To fully understand the Vermeer connection, gallerygoers will have to linger a bit, and absorb in turn each element of this exuberant, free-wheeling installation. Once the multilayered concept sinks in, it all makes sense, in a circuitous way.”
This exhibition offers unique educational opportunities for Oklahoma Contemporary: Spring and summer campers, as well as students on field trips and visitors to the gallery, will learn how contemporary artists respond to historical pieces, creating new artwork that is thought-provoking and inventive. Instructors will engage children's imaginations through painting and sculpture as they explore what may be happening outside the borders of their favorite pieces of art.
Throughout the exhibit, hands-on family activities are available in the Circle Gallery: a light table to explore color, a still-life sketching area, an imagination kitchen (a place to dress up and take photos), a collaborative tapestry project and a reading area. Children are encouraged to investigate a number of themes throughout the exhibit, including light, texture and a sense of place.
Wheat has a bachelor of arts from the University of Central Oklahoma and a master of fine arts from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. She lives and works in New York City.
A series of special events around Wheat and her exhibit, including both visual and performance art, are in the works. Mark your calendars for an immersive theater event on May 18 and brunch with the artist May 21. Learn more and purchase tickets here.