The twelve artists in this exhibition were chosen for the inaugural year of the Tulsa Artist Fellowship on the basis of their individual excellence. Like the artists themselves, who hail from across the country, their work is strikingly diverse, including performance, painting, ceramics, and fiber arts, as well as many things in between. Creating a conceptually and aesthetically rich group exhibition from that multiplicity has been rewarding, and I am grateful for the trust placed in me by the artists as we embarked upon this fundamentally optimistic endeavor.
The title of this show—Syncretic—describes the productive juxtapositions that are our reward for that trust. Strictly speaking, it’s a philosophical term that describes the successful combination of different or opposing elements. But as a metaphor for the Tulsa Artist Fellowship, it evokes both the program’s premise and the heart of its success. From the initial audacious proposition of a flagship artist residency in one of America’s highest-profile emerging arts districts, through a variety of public programs, to this very exhibition, the Fellowship has taken syncretism as its guiding principle. Thanks in part to the superlative skill of the artists in the program, that strategy has been an unparalleled success.
In keeping with the Fellowship’s syncretic sensibility, this exhibition is discursive rather than summary. In other words, instead of dryly documenting the work done by each artist over the past year, I selected work that highlights some of the unintended but intriguing thematic and visual connections I discovered during my studio visits. We’ve all had moments of serendipity, happy coincidences that leave their mark on projects and experiences—but how often can we rely on it as a curatorial strategy? I invite you to explore these unexpected connections, and to enjoy the serendipity of their syncretism as much as I have.
As curator, I have had the additional luxury of installing the artwork in a way that underscores the syncretic effects that struck me as most fruitful, fun, and profound. But I was also curious about how the artists themselves experienced syncretism—so I asked each of them to write a few sentences about its relationship to their practice. Their responses are presented here—not necessarily as explanations of their work, but as invitations to see the effects of syncretism through their eyes, as well as mine. The texts accompanying each work in the gallery, therefore, are for the most part the words of the artists themselves.
Finally, the enthusiasm, openness, and concrete logistical support I received from Julia White of the Tulsa Artist Fellowship and Krystle Brewer of 108|Contemporary facilitated my ambitious, extended conversations with the TAF artists, and I am grateful to them for the vital role they played in making this exhibition possible.
-Louise Siddons, Ph.D., curator
Click here to watch the curator walk through with Louise Siddons, Ph.D.
To view images of the exhibition, click here.