By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Beginning Thursday, February 25, the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center will present the Summer Wheat exhibition, “Pry the Lid Off.” The show will be a homecoming for her.
Wheat was born and raised in Oklahoma City and now she returns in 2016 to serve as an artist-in-residence and to “create pieces that are site specific for the gallery.”
The artist talk will be held at 5:30 p.m. with the opening reception beginning at 6 p.m. at 3000 General Pershing Boulevard at the State Fair Grounds Park. The exhibit runs through August 12.
Wheat says she “searches history from a material and conceptual point of view.”
Johannes Vermeer’s The Milkmaid was her inspiration for this exhibit. Wheat explores what she imagines to be behind the wall in Vermeer’s historical painting. The exhibition includes painting, sculpting, architecture, and installation.
“I look inside the space of the painting and ask questions about what is hidden from the viewer,” Wheat stated. “Such as: What was under her table? What’s inside her pocket? What’s happening in the next room? How can I recreate her spaces as if she lived today? I reinvent this painted character by building installations of her domestic spaces, each exhibit part of an evolving parafictional world.”
Wheat received her B.A. from the University of Central Oklahoma and her M.F.A from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She describes her own pieces as “sensual, disturbing, ugly, yet beautiful.”
Using the milkmaid as a point of departure, Wheat builds installations that use architectural space to depict the interiority and her individuality. She wants to expand the milkmaid “beyond the two-dimensional plane and reveal the world behind her white kitchen wall.”
“Pry the Lid Off,” presented at Oklahoma Contemporary, portrays the four rooms of the maid’s personal chambers, a vault filled with her clothes, dish cabinets and tapestries.
Previously her rooms have been recreated in exhibitions and works such as Mudroom (2012) and Walk-in Pantry (2015). Each installation is like another room within a large-scale doll house.
When the viewers enter these immersive environments, they take part in her subjectivity and the textures of her world.
Wheat’s exhibition offers opportunities to the public for educational programming, including classes, camps and field trips that explore the different mediums in which she works. Students will learn how contemporary artists respond to historical pieces, while creating new, though-provoking artwork.
Oklahoma Contemporary will engage the imaginations of children through painting and sculpture as they explore what may be happening outside the borders of their favorite pieces of art.
The Circle Gallery provides hands-on activities for the entire family, including a reading area, a light table to explore color, a still-life sketching area, an imagination kitchen (a place to dress up and take photos) and a collaborative tapestry project.
Gallery hours are 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sundays. Admission is free.