Oklahoma Contemporary
Studio-in-Place artist Calvin Pressley
A figure in red shorts and black socks sits in a colorfully cluttered studio

New Light

June 03, 2020

#StudioInPlace: Connected Conversations (in a Disconnected Time)

Bridging social distance through interviews and portraiture
By Calvin Pressley, Studio-in-Place artist
A rough sketch of a person with long hair and glasses
Studio-in-Place artist Calvin Pressley will turn sketches of interview subjects into vibrant paintings through his Connected Conversations project.

Conversations between people from different backgrounds are more important now than ever. But it's difficult to have conversations when we’re advised to stay six feet apart.

During my Studio-in-Place project, Connected Conversations, I’ll be using video-conferencing platforms like Zoom or FaceTime to hold intimate conversations with community members about how the past few days and months have impacted their individual ⁠— and our collective ⁠— lives. From parenting and politics to careers and mental health, no subject will be off limits. During the conversation, I will take notes and make quick sketches of the interviewee, which I will later translate into finished oil paintings.

In times like these, some individuals who are able to find words want to use them. I hope those who often struggle to find ears to listen can find a platform to be heard through this project.

Connected Conversations was inspired in part by a series of doodles I made from my computer screen during Zoom work calls. The image above is a quick, 10-minute sketch from a meeting, pulled directly from my sketchbook. Below is a detailed image of an oil painting, currently titled A Trip to the Store Through the Storm (“currently” because I keep my titles as loose as my mark making).

A colorful abstract portrait featuring a pair of eyes behind pink and blue brush marks
A Trip to the Store Through the Storm (2020) by Calvin Pressley.

When looking at my past work, you may notice that I often neglect precision in favor of exciting mark making and new color experiences. Although trained in traditional drawing processes in my undergraduate and graduate art programs, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I simply love paint — the paintings that result from my instinctive process are expressive and exuberant. I most enjoy mixing a color that I can’t describe, but that I can feel. Similarly, portraits made in Connected Conversations will express the spirit of vitality of each subject and the conversation we share, rather than conveying the literal representation of the individual.

Community participation is a key part of this project. I hope that by talking about what we are dealing with in Oklahoma City and across the world, and by seeing ourselves depicted in a traditional medium such as oil paint, we will all be able to see more ways to find connection and inclusion in our community.

Want to participate in Connected Conversations? Email your story and your contact information to me at studioschool@okcontemp.org or message me on Instagram at @cpressley by Sunday, June 7.

Calvin Pressley is an artist and Studio School instructor who primarily focuses on subjective portraiture in painting and drawing. With a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia, Calvin maintains a studio in the Oklahoma City area and has exhibited nationally. The San Antonio native's Connected Conversations project is part of Oklahoma Contemporary's new Studio-in-Place digital residency,
designed to engage themes of creativity, community and resilience in the time of COVID-19.


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Studio-in-Place Connected Conversations Calvin Pressley COVID-19 portraiture Studio School arts education

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