Artist Christie Owen makes time to help other women artists

Some artists can dedicate their entire lives to their work. Maybe they’re single, famous, rich or so broke they don’t care anymore. Whatever their lot in life, they can float above the workaday fray the rest of us are mired in, unencumbered by the snares of a normal weekday.

For the rest of the world’s working artists, life intrudes on their art. Student loans and soccer games, board meetings and business lunches — they all chisel away at the time every artist needs in order to create.

That’s why OKC artists Christie Owen and Christie Hackler started Fringe in 2011.

“To me, you have to be responsible in all areas of your life,” Owen said when asked about the mission of Fringe, a women’s art collective aimed at promoting female artists in Oklahoma City. “But you have to pursue the things you want to define your life. I want to be an artist, so I have to prioritize some things. That’s who I want to be, so I have to make time for that. So I do.”

Placing art higher on the priority list might be more difficult for women, especially mothers.

Like it or not, statistics prove the majority of domestic responsibilities, from chores to child care, still fall on women, especially in a place like Oklahoma.

And while Fringe is committed to nurturing and exhibiting female artists, Owen said the group is far more about support and accountability than feminism.

“We don’t necessarily look at Fringe like a feminist movement,” Owen said. “It was mainly so women could bond together through a common interest, kind of a ‘strength in numbers’ thing. When a lot of women start having children, start getting married, plenty of these domestic things can take away from the time you need to be an artist. And several of the girls in the group were art students at [the University of Central Oklahoma], just starting their career path, so it would’ve been especially easy for them to let go of their art.”

Owen said Fringe helps its members stay focused on their goals.

“If there wasn’t that camaraderie, that accountability that helps you keep art in front of you and tells you, ‘Hey, this is what you’re supposed to be doing,’ I think it would be much easier to lose it altogether,” she said. “This helps a lot of people not be so distracted.”

Owen said that accountability also enhances the quality of Fringe shows and the Oklahoma City arts scene as a whole.

Fringe artists aren’t given a membership card and a free pass; they’re responsible for attending events, showing their work and pushing themselves as artists.

“By raising our standards, we feel like we’ve helped raise the standards in the community, and it’s been magical,” Owen said. “In Fringe, you gotta show up, you gotta show and you gotta make good, quality work. It’s not just about supporting female artists; it’s about challenging them.”

A challenge of sorts was issued by OKC artist and graphic designer Erin Cooper in a feature story in the Oct. 14 issue of Oklahoma Gazette.

The article centered around Cooper’s assertions that the city’s arts scene could be a “boys club” at times and aspects of its creative climate could lean toward sexism, both unintentionally and deliberately.

When asked if she’d read the article, Owen said she had, but her experiences differed from Cooper’s.

“You know, I had really never thought about it until I read that article,” she said. “It did challenge me to decide how I felt about it, but I just can’t say from personal experience that I feel the same way. I’m a graphic designer too, and I couldn’t even tell you the ratio of male-to-female artists in the field. I do work for BMX, and I think maybe I’m just used to working with those dirty boys. BMX is very dirty, very gritty, very technical, very ... masculine. So I guess I just got used to being a female artist in that arena.”

Cooper and Owen might have had different experiences with biases in the art world, but they share the same hustle and determination that has allowed them to balance their personal and professional lives with their artistic ambition.

“If you want to do something, you have to go after it,” said Owen, who has a husband, an 11-year-old daughter and the countless responsibilities that only a working parent/artist can understand. “You set your goals, and that’s what you pursue every day, whether you’re male or female. I think you can balance being a mom, working another job and being an artist when you need to be. We’re all multi-tasking. It’s just a matter of what you choose to be your priorities. The laundry can wait.”

Fringe’s next show, Enclave, takes place at Mainsite Contemporary Art, 122 E. Main St., in Norman in December.

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Print Headline: Fringe bene?ts, A local artist created a group to help women artists manage their time and create.

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