Oklahoma Contemporary
Đan Lynh Phạm, Deep Breaths (2021)
"Destination Oklahoma" is in white text in the left corner. A dark blue border surrounds a bright red background. A person with long black hair, in a yellow dress, is sitting in a green chair. A blue table with a striped vase and flowers sits in front.

New Light

June 29, 2022

From Dust Bowl to Vietnam

On a white background, this vertical painting has "NO" and "CROSS" painted in blue, red writing floating behind. A hand stretches from the top left corner, while a young child sits at the bottom in a blue cap and shirt, a painted globe in his lap
America Meredith, God Gives the World to Arapaho Children (2004)

Five Oklahoma-based artists explore migration, belonging and place in Destination Oklahoma

We’ve all heard the infamous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.” But what if it was both, journey and destination? Can we imagine an opportunity in which both exist at the same time? Destination Oklahoma can.

“There are a myriad of experiences and stories held on this land,” says writer, Tulsa Artist Fellow and co-curator Liz Blood. “This show offers a few windows into some of them.”

Featuring five Oklahoma-based artists and nearly a dozen of their works, Destination Oklahoma opens in the Mary LeFlore Oklahoma Gallery on July 14. The exhibition aims to illuminate the distinct cultural backgrounds coexisting across our country and state. Including ceramics, mixed media, paintings, photographs, prints and video, the exhibition engages with questions of cultural hybridity and migration.

“We narrowed our selection of artists to those whose art practice intersects strongly with the theme of the exhibition, reflecting on the patterns of migration that have long shaped life in the state,” says Oklahoma Contemporary’s Associate Curator Pablo Barrera.

Skip Hill’s works incorporate details sourced form art historical canon, tattoo culture, Asian calligraphy, West African sculpture and more. His paintings in Destination Oklahoma reimagine symbolic imagery in relation to the Dust Bowl era. America Meredith’s works approach social and environmental issues, playfully mixing pop culture references with historical illustration of Indigenous subjects.

A little girl with short black hair in a green tank top sits at a red table, a green phone held up to her ear. The print is bordered in cream with a blue background. Two red squares float above: one with flowers in a vase, the other incense
Đan Lynh Phạm, Thank You, Bà Nội (Grandmother) (2021)

Destination Oklahoma is a chance to open the conversation about migration and the complicated definition of what diversity is in Oklahoma,” says artist Đan Lynh Phạm. “My work acts as a visual diary, and I chose pieces that express what home means to me and the complicated sentiments of growing up in an immigrant family as one of few POC in a community dominated by Western culture.”

Through illustrations and contemporary design aesthetic, Phạm’s pieces blend graphic language with Vietnamese folk art traditions, evoking thoughts of connection and disconnection experienced by immigrants of the Vietnamese diaspora in Oklahoma.

On a tan background, an outlined rectangle sits on the middle. Farsi is written inside the outline, black marks blacking out certain words. An image of an individual is off center, floating in the words. The figure seems to be disappearing.
Ghazal Ghazi, Monumental Redactions (2022)

“Everyone is invited to consider both the ways migration has shaped the place in which we live as well as their own personal relationship to human movement,” Blood says. “Migration touches us all, whether we have recently moved here, have new-to-us neighbors or have migration in our near or distant past. It touches us all differently.”

Ghazal Ghazi’s works touch on Eurocentric ideologies, "interrogating the narratives of collective memory that underlie systemic power structures."

“For me, there is a conscious decision to not center the white gaze,” Ghazi says. “For some viewers of the work, it may be the first time in their life that they inhabit a space where they are no longer part of the linguistic hegemony. It may be the first time they feel what it's like to be the linguistic ‘Other.’”

Incorporating Persian miniature style with large-scale murals and paintings, Ghazi's select works investigate the limitations of what can be known about a culture through calligraphic Farsi and undefined, seemingly evaporating faces.

Two photos are next to each other. One is of a man in a car. He is seen underneath the neck of a brown horse as he holds the reigns from the open car window. The second is an older woman in a white hat and matching shirt.
September Dawn Bottoms, I See You, Boley (2020-2022)

Through images exploring intergenerational trauma and histories, September Dawn Bottoms utilizes archival family photos and portraits taken during interviews, producing a collaborative approach toward understanding the relationship between artist and subject.

While the exhibition allows the artists to experience and reflect on how place and home are formed through their works and how interconnection creates culture, it simultaneously presents an opportunity for visitors from all walks of life to see, feel and potentially reimagine what it means to be an Oklahoman.

Two figures painted black sit in white dresses. They are facing each other. Below them is a black and red checker board. They are sitting in a room with lots of color and patterns in greens, blues, reds and yellows.
Skip Hill, Checkers (2006)

“As Oklahoma City welcomes refugees from Afghanistan, approaches the one-year anniversary of the First Americans Museum, revitalizes the Clara Luper Civil Rights Center, recognizes the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords that directly led to the creation of our cherished Asian District and now sees a record increase of newcomers from other states, this exhibition is a timely opportunity to reflect on how the region’s long-standing patterns of human migration continue to shape our artistic landscape,” Barrera says.

Join us for an opening reception July 14, followed by an informal artist talk with the artists of Destination Oklahoma and co-curator Liz Blood. Moderated by Barrera, audience participation is encouraged as we converse and explore cultural hybridity and other exhibition themes.


Đan Lynh Phạm, Thank You, Bà Ni (Grandmother), 2021. Screenprint. 11 x 14 in. Image courtesy of the artist. © Đan Lynh Phạm. Overlaid with Destination Oklahoma logo.

America Meredith (Cherokee Nation), God Gives the World to Arapaho Children, 2004. Acrylic paint and mica on found steel panel. 36 x 16 in. Courtesy of Mary Ellen Meredith. © America Meredith.

Đan Lynh Phạm, Thank You, Bà Ni (Grandmother), 2021. Screenprint. 11 x 14 in. Image courtesy of the artist. © Đan Lynh Phạm.

Ghazal Ghazi, Monumental Redactions: Ali’s Return to America from the Middle East Four Months after 9/11, 2022. Oil paint, watercolor, embroidery floss and pencil on linen. 84 x 67 in. Image courtesy of the artist. © Ghazal Ghazi.

September Dawn Bottoms, I See You, Boley, 2020 - 2022. Digital print. Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist. © September Dawn Bottoms.

Skip Hill, Checkers, 2006. Acrylic paint on canvas. 28 x 30 in. Image courtesy of the artist. © Skip Hill.

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new exhibition Mary LeFlore Clements Oklahoma Gallery destination Destination Oklahoma culture migration

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