Invited Artists Gallery exhibits results of hour-long urban photography experiment 

n the Invited Artists' Gallery, an inconspicuous hallway in The Underground concourse beneath downtown. The exhibition runs through Oct. 15.

"It's a very socialist show in many ways: Everyone's got equal material, equal time, equal warning, equal rules, equal presentation," event organizer Romy Owens said.

But the results of this timed experiment are anything but uniform. They reflect a downtown fragmented by time, aesthetic and wealth "? or the lack thereof.

The early June shoot provided the photographers the chance to snap a wedding, a free lunch for the downtrodden and the Red Earth Festival, along with a host of objects immovable.

Only one in five of the deputized artists would consider themselves professional photographers, Owens said, but looking at the results of the experiment, it is nearly impossible to discern the difference.

The event was organized, for the most part, through Facebook. The 60 slots were filled within 24 hours, and rules required that all photographers be from the metro area.

Shortly after 11 a.m., Rex Barrett wandered along Sheridan Avenue, where it intersects with Robinson Avenue, staring up into the sky at the buildings surrounding him.

"I'm trying to look at things that people might not be taking pictures of or different parts of something that maybe wouldn't catch people's eye," he said. "We just started walking and we'll let inspiration hit."

Barrett, who serves as director of the nonprofit Project OKC, held the cardboard-covered camera delicately in hands, generally accustomed instead to his larger digital device. He stepped back and aimed the cheap lens at the corner of a cascading water fountain. Snap.

From the final results, it's clear that the artists had very different visions of downtown in mind. They fanned out wide within the boundaries prescribed. Some ventured inside to snap plush armchairs or mounted deer trophies. Others snapped outdoor art and cityscapes.

Tracey Zeeck, a non-artist, pointed her disposable skyward to capture vines strangling a downtown wall. Clinton Dean Bowman, a local artist with a degree in photography, affixed his lens on the scant corner of a set of high-tension power lines,
slicing through the corner of the frame.

Lori Rasmussen, a reporter for OETA, had just finished her roll with a shot of the Amtrak station as she walked up to her car. She said her roll contained lots of shots of WPA-era art deco buildings that harkened back to her childhood memories of downtown.

"The powers that be want us to think Bricktown and pretty commercial shots of buildings," she said. "I love that part of downtown myself, but there's so much more."

Funding for the $800 project came from Devon Energy, with the stipulation that photos steer clear of any political statements or religious iconography, Owens said.

But the simple act of pointing a camera at a subject and pushing the button can effortlessly send signals about the artist's intention. The exhibit contains images of urban decay, of streetcars that no longer run and of the social stratification of downtown OKC.

D. Oswald, a local artist who works under the pseudonym Bombs Away, set off at 11 a.m. and pointed his street bike toward the southwest boundary of downtown. Outside a shelter, he met a woman in a long, blue dress with purple, plastic gloves. She obviously had been preparing a meal for the homeless when he asked to take her picture. The result is a haunting contrast to other pieces in the exhibit.

"I didn't want it to be all depressive, and that side of downtown is what interests me the most. It can't be overlooked and neglected," he said. "I was just kind of drawn to that section, and I wanted to figure out why." 

60 Artists, 60 Minutes exhibits through Oct. 15 at Invited Artists Gallery, The Underground, Underneath Robert S. Kerr and Robinson Avenues.

"?Grant Slater

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