Creaturerealm Oklahoma Brings Salvaged Wonder, Found Object Fantasy

OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Have you ever tripped over an old piece of wood or a rusty metal object, something thrown or trashed, and seen some kind of beauty there? Maybe you noticed an interesting pattern in the grain of the wood, or maybe you just recognized its potential as a canvas, base, or starting point for your imagination.

This mentality is at the heart of the burgeoning arts collective Creaturerealm Oklahoma, a group of closely related veteran artists and creators who are presenting a showcase of their collaborative works at Oklahoma City University’s Norick Arts Center from April 8-27. may.

The group works largely with found objects and salvaged materials, not only because of the inherent aesthetic potential, but also because of what the materials themselves can represent.

“It has a lot to do with environmental objects and spending a lot of time with salvaged and repurposed materials and making them valuable again, making them expressive of human nature,” said Nick Lillard, painter, sculptor and co-founder of Creaturerealm. “It almost always revolves around biological life, the concept of the living being, the ‘creature’. This is where it all comes together. »

mind and body

Exploring this concept of organic form and biology is a central theme in much of the work on display in Creaturerealm’s exhibition at OCU, even in the most abstract or esoteric pieces.

The first work that greets visitors entering the gallery is the powerfully colored “Grow Glow” by Chris McDaniel, painted, like many of the artworks in the exhibition, on a slab of reclaimed plywood. It meets your gaze as a wild, pastel explosion of sharp-edged shapes against an almost fiery pink background, but a second glance reveals a tree, its trunk twisted but its branches soaring and bursting with floral life depicted in all the colors of Oklahoma’s spring.

“Grow Glow” by Chris McDaniel at Creaturerealm Oklahoma at Oklahoma City University (BRETT FIELDCAMP/Okla City Free Press)

The same can be said of October Merrill’s oil works, focusing on what at first glance appears to be twisting and overlapping cords or wires, but the title “The Mother Provides” quickly changes the perspective, evoking instead a full range of biological possibilities from the umbilical to the worms underground.

“It reaches darker tones,” Lillard admitted. “We can really create weird creatures, but I love creating something that takes on a life of its own. It’s my favorite thing.

Form and function

Nothing in the gallery comes to life better than Cosimo, the celestial wizard.

Cosimo is a massive ten-foot animatronic “sculpture” that Lillard designed and constructed largely from salvaged materials as varied as milk jugs and even older Lillard paintings, the canvases cut and glued together to make the the wizard’s flowing robes. Buried lighting elements shine through to form her eyes, and strings of lights intertwine through her clothes.

kingdom of creatures
Cosimo the Celestial Wizard at Creaturerealm Oklahoma at Oklahoma City University (BRETT FIELDCAMP/Okla City Unviersity)

Currently, for display purposes inside the gallery space, Cosimo’s head has been removed and placed next to the imposing body where it can be better displayed and appreciated for the materials and mechanisms that have contributed to its creation. It’s by design that this show focuses on Creaturerealm processes and sensibilities, even though the celestial wizard has made appearances in his full, soulful, gesturing form in the past.

“We make these performance pieces that are kind of like sculptures,” Lillard said. “Cosimo did a few things, like at Tinker Fest for the Science Museum Oklahoma. It was our first real interaction with the public as a Creaturerealm.

“The People’s Chair”

To showcase the group’s ability to create something interactive and inviting for visitors inside this delicate gallery space, they built what Lillard calls “The People’s Chair”, a wooden throne. backlit wrought iron surrounded by huge luminous panels. These panels, works of art in their own right entitled “Asteroid Leaves”, are made up of many carved and sculpted wooden pieces, each painted and forming a fluid visual on a base of transparent plastic “clouds”.

A collection of lighting elements are integrated into each panel, illuminating the complete rooms from behind. A small coil of copper wire wrapped around the arm of the throne acts as a button to change the color of the lights, allowing guests to control the aesthetics and mood of the room itself.

kingdom of creatures
“The People’s Chair” at Creaturerealm Oklahoma at Oklahoma City University (BRETT FIELDCAMP/Okla City Free Press)

True to the band’s style, even this massive multi-part interactive installation is still constructed primarily from salvaged materials.

“It’s probably at least 80% salvaged material,” Lillard told me. “The wooden panels in the front are plywood, the plastic elements are milk jug plastic, even the wrought iron of the chair itself is made from an old door we found and repurposed .”

Artist statement

While the planning for this show is meant to shine a light on the materials and processes Creaturerealm Oklahoma artists use for their creations, Lillard says the group also has much broader philosophical intentions, starting with raising awareness of the importance of recovery and recycling. .

“There is a relationship between what we do and the concept of the places where we live,” he explained. “Thinking about how people are going to live in the future with limited resources and not a lot at their disposal, but they’ll probably have things like plywood, and so here’s how we’re going to sculpt it and make it interesting in a way that can be unique or aesthetically pleasing.

Teaching people about the possibilities of art and how it can be found in the world around them is integral to Creaturerealm’s goals, from Lillard’s own work as an art teacher for students of all ages to the work of art. ‘Ashley Morrison with diversity training and activism with the group.

“A lot of what we’re talking about is making things accessible,” Lillard said, “to try to make things like sculpture accessible and applicable to people’s lives.”

Lillard explained that was the thought behind the group’s name from the start.

“We are all creatures. It’s about being a creature and finding your own space, you know,” he said. “And I love that you can almost hear ‘create your kingdom’ in it too.”

“Creaturerealm Oklahoma” is on display at Oklahoma City University’s Norick Art Center from April 8 through May 27, free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Thursday April 14 will see an official opening night and reception for the show with the artists themselves available from 5-7pm.

Last updated on April 8, 2022 at 10:15 p.m. by Brett Dickerson – Editor

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