Oklahoma Contemporary
SHELTER Station 6b

New Light

April 23, 2024

SHELTER: Illuminating Human Resilience

“A home, in a community where they can flourish, contribute and participate on a daily basis”

Over centuries of evolving into complex beings, humans require a number of fundamental needs to be met in order to navigate the worlds in which we inhabit. Food and water, for most, would be the first to come to mind. For multidisciplinary artist Lisa Karrer, shelter exists at the forefront: the safety, security and stability of shelter.

A black-and-white photo shows a close up of a person's face leaning against their fist. They have light features, and light curly hair that is hanging slightly over their face.

Lisa Karrer

Opening Thursday, April 25, in the Mary LeFlore Clements Oklahoma Gallery, SHELTER by Karrer explores this concept specifically through the lived experiences of displaced peoples seeking safety and shelter in refugee communities across the world. Through oral interviews and video projections displayed within miniature ceramic structures inspired by global refugee camps, SHELTER invites visitors to consider the ways displaced individuals and families find new homes, create community and build new lives in unfamiliar places.

“SHELTER presents the viewer with the content and confluence of lives disrupted by displacement, an alarming phenomenon which is quickly becoming a new ‘normal,’” Karrer writes. “We may even recognize our own selves in the narratives of people who find themselves displaced, and who urgently seek what many of us take for granted: a home, in a community where they can flourish, contribute and participate on a daily basis.”

An image with a black background shows one person sitting at a small table and rug drawing. They are dressed in a red blanket with large earrings. A person in a black dress with red stripes at the bottom is dancing in front of the person sitting down.

Laura Rice (left) and Kian Looper (right)

The exhibition originally debuted in 2020-2021 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Karrer’s hometown of Buffalo, New York, aiming to illuminate the relationship between the city of Buffalo and its refugee organizations that assist displaced peoples with resettling. Karrer’s second iteration of SHELTER at Oklahoma Contemporary recontextualizes the exhibition for Oklahoma audiences, combining the voices and visuals of Oklahomans (both newly welcomed and of generational roots) recounting their personal or generational experiences with displacement.

“The project continues to evolve as displacement both at home and abroad grows exponentially due to war, climate disruption, food and housing shortages, cultural marginalization, and economic disparity,” Karrer writes. “At Oklahoma Contemporary, SHELTER has expanded to address the dual crises of refugee resettlement in parallel with localized groups of displaced people — all seeking to rebuild their lives with stable housing and support from local organizations — providing opportunities to become vital contributing members of the communities that embrace them.”

A person is sitting on a cot bed on a pulled out green screen, surrounded by large photography lights. A person with long light colored hair stands behind a camera pointed at the green screen.

Alex Sanchez (left) and Karrer (right)

Featuring discrete “Stations” of miniaturized ceramic tents, huts, camps and buildings, SHELTER comprises regionally specific dwellings inhabited by refugees around the world. Each Station in the Oklahoma Gallery contains an embedded audio soundtrack, featuring narrators speaking in their native language or in English, sharing memories of home, paired with projected video scenarios portraying these individuals and families existing in day-to-day realities. The exhibition expands beyond geographical boundaries both contextually through the ceramic structures and physically within Oklahoma Contemporary’s spaces. Visitors will first encounter SHELTER Stations upon entering the arts center, welcoming in and beckoning the viewer onward.

Partially destroyed tan rectangular ceramic buildings sit on a flat, sand-like surface. We can see a blue light projected in the back building.

Karrer's Bombed-Out Buildings (2020)

In an environment and time with increasing amounts of violence and dehumanization toward those deemed “others,” SHELTER aims to humanize the lived experiences of displacement. Oklahomans may feel deep connections to the video scenarios and audio narratives of community members who, with generosity of spirit, give voice to their respective journeys. With a long history of displacement and forced removal of Indigenous nations and Black communities, as well as the arrival of Vietnamese, Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, SHELTER offers an opportunity to hear, see and bear witness to the lives and stories of those within our own state, our own city, our own shared neighborhoods.

Join us for the opening reception and Artist Talk April 25 beginning at 5:30 p.m. with light bites and a cash bar, followed by an intimate and moving conversation with the artist, moderated by Sam Wargrin Grimaldo. All are welcome and encouraged to attend and experience these lived tales of human will and resilience.


Detail view of Lisa Karrer's White Round Tents (2020). Photo: Tullis Johnson, courtesy of Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Artist Lisa Karrer. Photo courtesy of the artist.

SHELTER audio narrators and video figures Laura Rice (left) and Kian Looper (right). Image courtesy of Karrer.

Karrer (right) films SHELTER video figure Alex Sanchez at Oklahoma Contemporary. Photo: Cassandra Watson.

Karrer's Bombed-Out Buildings (2020). Photo: Tullis Johnson, courtesy of Burchfield Penney Art Center.

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Exhibitions opening artist talk SHELTER ceramics video audio recordings exhibition Oklahoma Gallery

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