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The space between

Mainsite’s new exhibition blurs the line between art and design. But did that line even exist in the first place?

Devon Green January 22nd, 2014

Balance: Art + Design
Reception: 6-9 p.m., Jan. 23 
Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Jan. 24-25 
Mainsite Contemporary Art 
122 E. Main St., Norman 

Kyle Golding

The new show at Mainsite Contemporary Art in Norman, Balance, strives to illustrate the line that separates what falls into a category of either fine art or design but finds that line to be arbitrary at best.

The show was created by Narciso Argüelles, a California native artist who has been in Oklahoma for over 10 years. He cites his upbringing in Mexico and

Southern California as his inspiration. Ten years after leaving sunny California, he has built an exciting and challenging career as an artist and instructor in both art and design. His work continues to be informed by his Chicano heritage and relies heavily on his design background — with its bold visuals and eye-catching color.

The artists contributing to the show are either former students or came recommended by fellow artists. A few simply answered a public call for submissions. They all have one thing in common: they are all artists who do design work in some capacity.

“I was always drawn more to design because for me, it has more of a logical purpose, whereas art is a lot more up in the air,” Marianne McShane Burks, a former student of Argüelles and a freelance designer said.

Some artists featured work in design to help support their work in fine art, since design can have many practical applications. One exception is Kyle Golding, who has turned his fine art training and experience into a full-time career as a founding partner of a consulting firm.

Other artists in the show, such as Zachary Presley, use their background in design to create their art. His pieces often use design-heavy marketing techniques to sell his Native American heritage with humor and audacity.

As for Argüelles’ inspiration ... 

“I got the idea for the show a few years ago while I was teaching at the University of Central Oklahoma,” he said. “Often, it was the graphic design majors who were turning in quality art pieces versus the art majors. I would joke that I should curate an exhibit solely for these star graphic design students.

“Because the exhibit is a group show of graphic designers in Oklahoma with no theme, per se, I thought Balance would be a good name to communicate the concept of balance as a design principle that all artists have to deal with and the balancing act that designers do when they want to make art as opposed to more commercial work as designers.”

Other artists in the show include Alicia Northern, Anna Lee, Christopher Lee, Nick Geist, Brandon Land and Nicole Finley McMahan. There will also be a lecture at the opening reception by world-renowned artist David Carson, who is credited with turning the design world on its head with his influential work. Carson will give a lecture sharing some of his insight into the world of art and design and his experiences in the field, as well as his thoughts about design as art.

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