OKC VeloCity | See “Tatyana Fazlalizadeh: Oklahoma is Black” exhibition at Oklahoma Contemporary

See “Tatyana Fazlalizadeh: Oklahoma is Black” exhibition at Oklahoma Contemporary

By Josh Vaughn / Lifestyle / April 15, 2019

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is recognized internationally for her art that often sheds light on people that are oppressed, neglected, underprivileged and marginalized. National media sources such as the New York Times, NPR, Time Magazine, Buzzfeed and many others have featured stories about the artist and her work. In 2015, she was a recipient of Forbes 30 Under 30. Her art is collected by celebrities such as Spike Lee, who included many of her oil paintings in his remake of She’s Gotta Have It for Netflix. Currently, she holds the prestigious honor of being the inaugural Public Artist in Residence for the New York City Commission on Human Rights. She is a bright star rising on the horizon of the art world. Her path has led her far away from her OKC roots, but she returns triumphantly with her exhibition “Oklahoma is Black,” currently showing at Oklahoma Contemporary through May 19.

"Oklahoma is Black" fills Oklahoma Contemporary with beautiful portraits of residents of the northeast side of OKC alongside stirring quotes taken from their interviews with Fazlalizadeh.

Despite her national accolades and international notoriety, locally it seems that people are only beginning to take notice of her art. Jennifer Scanlan, exhibitions and curatorial director for Oklahoma Contemporary, noted, "Currently there are several artists addressing issues of identity and oppression on a national level. What is particularly exciting about Tatyana's work is that it speaks specifically to Oklahoma City, the experiences of people here."

 Ornate yet intimate oil paintings hold their own against the larger-than-life wheatpasted images that dominate the space.

“Oklahoma is Black” is an important body of work not only for Tatyana but for OKC, because it is directly inspired by and about our city and some of its “unseen” citizens. For this exhibition, Fazlalizadeh interviewed several OKC residents from neighborhoods on the northeast side in which she grew up, hearing individuals’ stories of racial prejudice. Through large wheatpaste installations, oil painted portraits, historic photos and three videos, she shares their stories alongside quotes from the interviews to give an already powerful exhibition even more poignancy.

Some of the most impactful pieces of the installation are the oversized historical photos of black residents of OKC.

"When I talk to a lot of black folks, it's this sense of invisibility that they feel," she said. "That people walk over them, or walk past them, or walk through them, or speak over them or speak through them and [they] aren't really seen. This show is about undoing that, amplifying current black life and current blackness to honor our black history and the fact that we are still here.”

Her unique perspective is very personal. Her relationship to this city and its people make this showing a heartfelt work, and it shows. Despite her extraordinary success, Fazlalizadeh still has not forgotten her roots--in fact she celebrates them. She considers this show a labor of love honoring blackness in Oklahoma. "It's been drawn by someone who's also black, who's also a woman, who's also from Oklahoma, who's from this community,” said Fazlalizadeh. Through the “Oklahoma is Black” exhibition, she hopes to share her perspective giving visual and cultural awareness to those “unseen” around us all.

Join members of the Oklahoma City arts community as they lead Gallery Talks at 6 p.m. on April 23 and May 7. At 6 p.m. April 18, Fazlalizadeh will hold a public conversation with A-lan Holt, director of the Office of Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University.

Oklahoma Contemporary has offered many opportunities for the public to involve themselves in the exhibition through talks, poetry writing and reading, and even held a maker workshop where everyone was encouraged to add their own wheatpaste portrait to the show.

Admission to the above programming, the exhibition and the Learning Gallery is free. Fazlaliadeh's paintings, wheatpasted large-scale drawings and video interviews will be on view at Oklahoma Contemporary through May 19.

Visitors use existing text to create out their own blackout poetry.

Oklahoma Contemporary is an inclusive center for the arts where people of all ages and backgrounds can experience art, encounter new ideas and ignite their creative potential. Through visual art exhibitions, performances, public programs, community-building initiatives, outdoor installations and special events, we create opportunities for everyone to come together in celebration of contemporary culture and artistic expression. With year-round classes and camps across multiple disciplines, the arts center's education programs encourage youth and adults to express their ideas across a variety of media and learn new skills.  

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