by Zach Reeves

Image: figure 1

Color is the first thing I notice. In Yatika Starr Fields’ work, it’s all over the place. It’s vibrant and striking, coursing in and out of view like the warp and woof of a weaving. His pieces move quickly: into figure and out of abstraction, into monochrome out of technicolor, into realism out of symbol. They move so fast that sometimes I can scarcely believe they’re the same painter in the same piece.

Raised Osage across northeastern Oklahoma (Hominy, Talequah, and Stillwater), Fields has stepped on almost every continent and worked with artists from all over the globe. He developed an aptitude for painting from a young age, encouraged by his parents, who are both artists themselves. (His mother Anita Fields is also a Tulsa Artist Fellow.)

Many of Fields’s canvases are pure abstraction: leaf- or bird-shapes crowding the frame in arrays of distinct colors, forcing the eye to swim. Many of his more recent and mature works, however, blend his abstract approach with more representational aspects, creating surreal and dissonant scenes.

Among his notable new works is Astral Horizon (2018), in which a cheetah, running through a bold and looping grey line, turns a dramatic blue as it passes through. The grey line claws the painting from different vantage points: is it the painting’s ribcage? The bars of a prison cell? Either way, we’re left to wonder if the cheetah will be completely blue when it passes fully through the line–if it can ever do so. The cat has evidently knocked over a table full of empty blue bottles, stepped on the throat of a supine parrot, and sideswiped an evidently lavish party with fruits, lobsters, and meat. The fast cat now runs toward a changing landscape of leaves, suggesting, perhaps, a wide open field, yet the cheetah has turned blue, frozen, arrested mid-stride. What happens next is anybody’s guess, but the parrot is dead, and the party is either over or just beginning.