Charging forward 

Elliot Robbins

This weekend, approximately 2000 people are expected to attend Momentum, now in its thirteenth year in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC) organizes the event in order to expose emerging local artists to newer and larger audiences. Beyond paintings, drawings and sculptures, attendees will also find new media, performance pieces, film, installations and music at Momentum.

OVAC Associate Director Kelsey Karper said that, altogether, 203 artists submitted a total of 507 pieces for consideration, and Momentum will feature 99 of these artists at the Farmer’s Public Market, where the show will be held.

Nathan Lee, executive director of Inclusion in Art, and Samantha Dillehay, an artist and instructor at East Central University, served as the curators for the exhibit. Together, they selected the artists and chose the Momentum Spotlight award winners, giving $2000 to three recipients to compose new works specifically for Momentum.

Dillehay, a former Spotlight winner herself, said she and Lee reviewed the applications separately and then met to compare notes.

“It felt very organic,” Dillehay said. “We seemed to gravitate to the same styles.”

The 2014 Spotlight winners are Eli Casiano of OKC, Elliot Robbins of Midwest City and Katy Seals of Norman.

Everyone who applies to show at Momentum must be 30 years old or younger.

“[Momentum] is full of energy and excitement,” Karper said. “[There is] a big emphasis on interaction. We don’t want audiences to just be viewers; we want them to be participants in the event. The artwork tends to include a lot of experi mentation and risk-taking.”

Robbins’ work is an example of this.

He
feels non-whites have been excluded from heroic roles, particularly in
children’s literature, so his art confronts the omission of black male
protagonists.

“I can’t
say that I find children’s stories to be particularly interesting in
their own right,” he said. “My interest isn’t so much in trying to write
a story with a black hero as it is in exploring a personalized
narrative that happens to also deal with broad race issues.”

While
Robbins’ sculptures tell a narrative, Casiano’s work combines image and
sound to reflect upon what he refers to as “society’s obsession with an
unachievable sense of pleasure,” questioning the line between life’s
intrinsic and instrumental values.

This
is the first time Casiano has integrated music into his visual pieces,
and he considers the work a situational experience that he specifically
designed for Momentum.

“The idea of this soundscape was intended to provoke an audience in a large space,” he said.

As
an examination of divorce and broken relationships, Seals’
installations come in the form of enormous women’s underwear embroidered
with old country lyrics.

Due
to the pressure of wanting to produce something great for the show,
Robbins said the award brings both exciting and terrifying aspects.

“The
exciting part is knowing that so many people will see your work, and
being acknowledged by OVAC is incredibly validating,” he said. “The
scary part is actually making the work. At the end of the day, the only
way to challenge that insecurity is to do the work.”

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