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OVAC announces annual Fellowship Awards

By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —

OKLAHOMA CITY – Each year the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC)presents two Oklahoma Visual Arts Fellowship awards of $5,000 each to individual Oklahoma artists. Additionally, two Student Fellowship Awards of $500 are given to two individuals who attend school in Oklahoma.

The Fellowship Awards are given to reward qualified artists with outstanding vision and are chosen by a guest curator from applications submitted by the artists.

OVAC works to support Oklahoma’s professional visual artists, and these awards are intended to recognize past achievements and future promise and can be used as the artists’ needs require.

“The Fellowship and Student Fellowship Awards honor these artists’ achievements and offer financial support for visual artists here in Oklahoma,” said Krystle Kaye OVAC’s Executive Director. “We are so proud of these artists and we look forward to the next chapter in their careers.”

The guest curator for this year’s Fellowship is Dylan Turk, co-founder and curator of KIN, a creative consulting company, and the Special Projects Editor of Architecture and Design at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Turkworked in a small gallery before serving as a curator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. His vision for how art should be experienced led to many exhibits, permanent installations, publications, and national lectures.

“Artists help us see where we’ve come from, the beauty and realities of the present, and inspire us for a better and more beautiful tomorrow,” Turk said. “These four artists are exceptional examples of the people that make up the great state of Oklahoma.”

The selected 2021 OVAC Fellows are Jason Cytacki (Norman) and Skip Hill (Tulsa). The Student Fellows are Dimana Bazrbashi (Oklahoma City; The University of Oklahoma) and Claire Dabney (Stillwater; Oklahoma State University).  

The funds are unrestricted so the artists may use them however they like. In addition to the funding, the artists and their work will be showcased in profile videos and promoted by OVAC throughout the year.

Jason Cytacki (Norman, OK), Out of the Blue, 24” x 30”, oil on canvas, 2018. Photo provided.

Jason Cytacki is an Associate Professor of Painting at the University of Oklahoma. Jason earned his MFA from the University of Notre Dame in 2011 and now lives and works in Norman. His work is represented in commercial galleries including JRB Art at the Elms in Oklahoma City and is part of the permanent collection of the Rockwell Museum in Corning, NY.

These paintings present serene nocturnes of everyday Midwestern scenes,” Cytacki said. “Dramatic lighting creates a cinematic atmosphere, setting up a stage in which the actors seem to have already left. Using specifically mundane imagery, each painting presents a common experience, evoking a sense of ambiguous but relatable familiarity.

Skip Hill (Tulsa, OK), BEAUTY SHOP ARIA (for Mabel Little), 84” x 48”, mixed-media collage using collected images of women’s Black haircare products and roses, acrylic paints, opaque and metallic inks, various paper stocks, glitter cardstock, adhesives and varnish on (2) birch panels, 2020-2021. Photo provided.

Born in Padre Island, Texas, Skip Hill grew up in Oklahoma City. After attending Oklahoma City University, he worked in various creative positions in advertising before relocating to Southern California. There Hill produced freelance graphic design work and spent time traveling throughout Baja, Mexico, Thailand, the Netherlands, Morocco, and Prague. Museums of Europe provided experiences that sparked Hill’s interest in creating art inspired by aesthetic and conceptual concerns over the commercial graphics from his years in advertising.

In a world that often feels out of order, it is profoundly human to seek some semblance of control to reshape the world and our experience of it by whatever means of imagination we have,” Hill said. “Reconfiguring the world using the technique of collage and mixed mediums is at the heart of my art practice. The aesthetic of my paintings is drawn from African American folk art, African tribal motifs and contemporary popular culture.”

Dimana Bazrbashi (Oklahoma City, OK), Living Shadows, 18” x 16”, watercolor on paper, 2020. Photo provided.

Born in Sliven, Bulgaria and growing up in Oklahoma Cty, OVAC Student Fellow Dimana Bazrbashi studied at Oklahoma City University for two years and completed her BFA in Studio Art at the University of Oklahoma in 2021. Mainly working in paint, Dimana is currently exploring themes of identity and isolation in her art. 

“Tending to keep it personal, I look to close friends and family as well as the environment around me for reference. People are a perpetual curiosity that I explore through painting,” Dimana stated. “Watercolor has been my favorite medium to work with for its translucency and unforgiving nature. Through self-portraits, I started diving deeper into my own identity, my Bulgarian roots, and have found interest in traditional embroidery.”

Claire Dabney (Stillwater, OK), Midsommar’s Psychosis, 36” x 38”, oil paint and embroidery floss, 2021. Photo provided.

OVAC Student Fellow Claire Dabney, from Stillwater, works in photography, oil paint, and fiber arts. Dabney’s photography focuses on feminist iconography, while her paintings confront social issues and mental health. Dabney is currently finishing her final semester of undergraduate studies at Oklahoma State University with a focus on oil painting. Her work has been showcased in Modella Gallery’s Faces of COVID exhibit, as well as OVAC’s Momentum exhibition.

“In my most recent work, I strive to create meaningful pieces that everyone can relate to in some way. In this collection of artwork, viewers will see subjects ranging from COVID and repressed anger to body image and mental health,” Dabney said. “My paintings titled Mommie Dearest and Midsommar’s Psychosis employ film characters to represent feelings that are too convoluted to simply describe—the state of mind of an uncontrollable addict, and the psychosis of a woman that has lost everything and is desperate to feel loved—these psychological challenges are common, but rarely confronted. My newfound signature in my painting work is my use of embroidery floss.”

For more information about the OVAC fellows, visit