By Lucie Smoker
Every day, we take in messages from friends, coworkers, media—and from conflict. We take note or move on, we “deal” or grow. Sometimes we just bang our fists on the table. But art transforms those reactions into new ideas. Street art invites a rowdy conversation. “We liked the rats,” said Matt and his friend from Tulsa after watching Cassie Stover. “It wasn’t what I expected. It was awesome.”
Meandering through September’s Plaza District Festival, I stopped to watch kids blow pearly bubbles, each one floating through a single moment of wonder, then POP! Turning down the narrow alley off 16th and Indiana felt like stepping inside one of them. With twenty artists spray-painting yellow energy or blue-pink defiance in a twisty, cocoon-like space, the Plaza Walls Mural Expo felt like chaos morphing into a whole new dimension of Oklahoma art.
“The best part was seeing the artists at work,” Evan and Maggie of Oklahoma City said after watching The Holey Kids.
Surprised by the order in which things were drawn, I watched Yatika Fields’ turtles and fish jump out of a concrete wall to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. To my left, Denise Duong painted a fantastical blue-green sky and a woman with roots for feet. Down the alley, Chris Sker proclaimed street cred in 3D lettering that latched right onto my eyes and would not let them go until I saw them, no really saw them.
“I think it makes the Plaza Festival have another whole layer to it that we never had before.” said Anna Farha, volunteer coordinator for the Plaza District Festival. “The fact that they partnered with the festival brought them a built-in audience and drew more people.”
Cans of spray-paint slowly disappeared from the open bag at the feet of Evaristo Lopez while he constructed a grid-like graffiti where each diamond image contrasted with the other, building energy. Scaffolding rolled across Sean Vali and Dylan Bradway’s joint mural of lilies and a totem-like forest guardian faster than the food-truck barbecue sandwiches strolling past. A cameraman hovered next to Steven Grounds as he injected life into a 12-foot face.
But this expo defied any attempt to capture its essence. Plaza Walls is more about the act of doing than a final “work of art.” A carnival of moments, it’s Jake Beeson wiping sweat off his brow while someone blasts Tears for Fears’ “Shout, shout, let it on out…” It’s Tessa Raven unexpectedly walking ten feet away from her Lily Woman to begin painting hands reaching up from concrete. Her mural extends into the ground and sky beyond anyone’s concept of a wall.