Lately, 108 Contemporary has been the site of some of the more quietly innovative exhibits in the city, from this summer’s “My Heart Looks Back and Wonder How I Got Over” by Skip Hill and Letitia Huckaby to a recent exploration of the luthier’s art. With a mission to lift up contemporary work that honors traditional art practices, this craft-focused gallery continues to expand the textures, traditions and techniques that belong under the label “fine art.” (If you weren’t here in 2015, you missed 108's “The Unbearable Absence of Landscape,” the most epic collaborative knit-bomb in Oklahoma history—literally.)
Molly Murphy Adams, "Roadcut." Photo by Jack Dean Pictures.
Now 108 Contemporary brings two Oklahoma-based Native artists together for “The Space Between,” featuring surveys of work by Anita Fields and Molly Murphy Adams, both of whom are Tulsa Artist Fellows. Though Fields and Murphy Adams worked separately on this show, their pieces resonate together throughout the space.
Using beading, embroidery, ceramic, printmaking and fiber techniques, both artists innovate within their traditions and urge new ways of thinking about the presence of the past. “My fiber work designs originate from older, more traditional sources of needlework from both Native and Anglo history,” Murphy Adams has said. “The liberties I take with materials, line quality, and design elements reflect my interest in contemporary art and the development of abstraction in the Western art tradition. My work reflects the issues of politics, cultural identity, and learning to live with the weight of the past.”
Both artists’ work sits provocatively in what the exhibit calls “The Space Between.” By bridging mediums and moments in time in such multidimensional ways, they raise bold questions about layering, perspective, what’s in the foreground and what’s in the background, what is discovered and what is created, what tracks and traces we leave through time and space. And they affirm the dynamic scope of Native art, alongside many other current examples of the richness and diversity of Indigenous creativity coming to the surface in American culture. Expect the unexpected, Murphy Adams advises.
L: Anita Fields, "What My Heart Knows." R: Anita Fields, "Move Forward #3." Photos by Jack Dean Pictures.
For Fields, collage becomes a way to dialogue with history as a contemporary Osage. “I have a series of six collage pieces created from fabrics, embroidery threads, handmade papers, metal sequins and facsimiles of archival documents relating to Osages,” she told Root. “The documents are from the 1800s, written by Indian agents, journalists, and shopkeepers. They reflect a one-sided inaccurate perspective. In response I present layered forms, shapes, Osage ribbon work patterns, distorted writings, and markings. This exploration is intended to say Osages have always defined who we are through our language, art, and culture.”
Originally planned for 2020, this show bears the marks of the pandemic in more ways than just its delayed opening. “I, like most of us, have gone through every imaginable emotion during this unprecedented time,” Fields said. “The title ‘The Space Between’ can be interpreted in many ways and is fluid according to our present state. It can be uncertainty, distortion of time; the isolation was hard for sure.” Over the course of the pandemic, she found it hard to work—work which she mostly finds “a refuge” and a cause for gratitude. (Her 2020 community project “In the Absence of Gathering” brought some of that refuge to the many who participated, myself included.)
“More than anything,” she said, “we cannot lose hope.”
Molly Murphy Adams, "Cedar Basket." Photo by Jack Dean Pictures.
If you go
The Space Between: Anita Fields & Molly Murphy Adams
108 E. Reconciliation Way
October 1-November 21, 2021
Friday, October 1, 12-5pm
Artist Talk with Anita Fields
Thursday, October 7, 7pm
Artist Talk with Molly Murphy Adams
Thursday, November 11, 7pm