Curator Pablo Barrera takes you inside Oklahoma Contemporary's stunning Shadow on the Glare exhibition — at a distance
What can a photograph tell us about a place and the people who live there? This is one of the questions at the heart of Shadow on the Glare, the arresting group show by Oklahoma artists, just upstairs from Oklahoma Contemporary's inaugural Bright Golden Haze exhibition.
Featuring photo and video works that critically respond to Bright Golden Haze’s themes of light and place — in this case, focusing particularly on the landscapes of Oklahoma — Shadow on the Glare showcases the resonance between our homegrown artists and their peers around the globe.
Tonight you'll have the chance to go inside this exhibition of works by Oklahoma artists alongside curator Pablo Barrera, when the Oklahoma Contemporary curatorial fellow leads a virtual gallery talk at 7 p.m. as part of our Thursday Night Late series. Until then, get to know a few of the artists who make this stunning show truly unforgettable.
Keli Mashburn (Osage)
Keli Mashburn got her first taste for photography as a teenager, on a camping road trip with her father through the wilds of Montana, Wyoming and Alaska — a far cry from the cattle ranch where she was raised in Fairfax, Okla. Armed with her dad's Pentax K1000 camera, Mashburn let loose.
"It was the first time I took a lot of photos," she said. "I realized then that I was composing these images, but what I was really trying to capture was a feeling — a sense of place and identity. I wasn't trying to take the perfect picture. I was trying to capture an emotion."
That same impulse drives Mashburn today, as the artist pushes the limits of photography to explore what she calls "the ethereal realm between physical place and personal myth." Works like Obstruction (2010) fit comfortably in this space, offering a stark meditation on the relationship between people and place as it manifests in the land surrounding her home in Osage County.
"It's a strong composition that pushes the medium to its limits, about philosophies on the relationship between humans and nature and the land around her home," curator Pablo Barerra said.
"Have you ever had those dreams, where you're not quite convinced it was a dream? The possibility of it just kind of stays with you, and you almost feel like it really happened, or maybe it happened a past life," said Sam Charboneau of her surreal photographs, like Don't Look Behind You. "You're kind of phased into a different dimension almost."
The emerging artist says her uncanny work is an attempt to translate scenes and characters from her head to the wider world. "Whenever I'm driving by a big field or something, I just look out and I think about those creatures from my brain, looming in the field. It's almost like when you were a kid and you had imaginary best friends. You'd be like, 'What if this happened?' The imagination and the dream is all in one."
Charboneau’s unique visions are composed of handmade sculptures photographed in natural light to match photographs of specific settings in her everyday life. Her visual vocabulary ranges from fictional works to references to post-WWII magical realism painters, but is always grounded in objects and settings she has personally created or captured.
Gary Mason (nosamyrag)
Working under the moniker nosamyrag, Tulsa artist Gary Mason creates images with incredible depth and framing using everyday consumer electronics and web applications. His tender portraits of family members, melancholic landscapes and angular urban explorations show an emerging artist producing rich, unforgettable work using the accessible tools at his fingertips. While his process results in sophisticated compositions like his dramatic 2016 work, the summer was over, the artist's driving impulse is simple: "I just like to take pictures."
That elegant simplicity finds its way into the work itself. Rather than plotting out grand designs, Mason finds inspiration in the lived experience of daily life. "When I take pictures, I try to take it the exact way I see it," he said. This means minimal cropping, with an emphasis on capturing moments true to the artist's unique vantage. The result often feels refined but not fussed over — distinguished, but accessible and immediate.
Josh Tonsfeldt (Cherokee)
The boundary-pushing Josh Tonsfeldt draws on the minutiae of everyday experience to create work that transcends the boundaries of classification. The artist's videos, photographs, drawings and installations mix technology and tradition to comment on transformation, decay and his own family history.
"A lot of my work comes from domestic life and materials that we use every day," Tonsfeldt said. That's the case for both of his pieces on display in Oklahoma Contemporary's inaugural Bright Golden Haze and Shadow on the Glare exhibitions: a mixed-media sculpture featuring a deconstructed consumer television screen and a disarmingly surreal video built around fragments of a family reunion.
"I started out working in photography and taking pictures. That's all about observation and going out into the world to find new ways of looking at things that might otherwise be very familiar to you, or might otherwise seem kind of banal or uninteresting," Tonsfeldt said. "I think that, in a way, led me into trying to look at objects and materials you might not otherwise consider or find so interesting to look at, and reconsider them."
Ryan RedCorn (Osage)
Ryan RedCorn trains his camera on the angles of Indigenous life that are often pushed out of the frame. Among his works featured in Shadow on the Glare, the 2018 photograph Heonpionpa, Letanwakan stands out as a representation of the artist's signature portrait style. The image centers a pair of children in tribal regalia against a gentle wash of tallgrass prairie, disrupting the pastoral scene by presenting each figure in Lego Batgirl masks.
"I mostly collaborate with my sitters, and allow them to transform into who they want themselves to be, or who they are, or a combination of two," RedCorn told LENSCRATCH in 2018. In this way, the artist actively pushes against the tradition of white photographers like Edward S. Curtis, whose canon of influential photographs of the American West contributed to a romanticization of Native people as tragic, vanishing figures in the American story. Returning agency to the portrait subject creates space in RedCorn's photographs for aspects of Indigenous life that rarely make it into popular depictions: from humor to hope to heartache and all points in between.
Tune in to tonight's virtual Shadow on the Glare gallery talk with Oklahoma Contemporary Curatorial Fellow Pablo Barerra, beginning at 7 p.m. on Facebook, YouTube and here on our website.
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