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An installation woven from wire and another that applies paint to large-scale images taken from space open at City Arts Center

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Asia Scudder and Andrew Polk
Opening reception 5:30 p.m. Thursday
On display through April 10
City Arts Center
3000 General Pershing
www.cityartscenter.org
951-0000

A pair of exhibits opening Thursday at City Arts Center take art to great heights, soaring from the peaks of music scales all the way up to the sky above.

Asia Scudder's "Music Builds a Life" is an installation set up inside the center's Circle Gallery, while Andrew Polk's bird's-eye-view paintings hang in the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Gallery.

Scudder is a Norman artist who creates sculptures that are manipulated out of baling wire and suspended in parade around the Circle Gallery, casting shadows from their shapes on the wall.

"She creates these drawings in the air, and they're very dynamic," said Clint Stone, artistic director of City Arts. "The viewer will have the opportunity to have a little intimacy with each of the wire sculptures and the music that inspired that piece and inspired her at that point in her life."

Scudder bent and twisted about 60 feet of wire for each sculpture to capture the essence of a genre or musician, and listening stations setup astride the art will play samples of the sounds that inspired the pieces. Miles Davis struts forward with a wire trumpet in hand, while the Tahitian Choir has two faces curved into each other, coiled wire detailing their lips open in song. For Woody Guthrie with his guitar, Scudder took inspiration from her dad and his love of the romanticism of Depression-era songs.

"My mom was an opera singer and my father was a folksinger "? two very different styles of music," she said. "They had Smithsonian collections, great folk music, dance, classical and blues "? really top-notch, great music to listen to. When I make my art, I'm just automatically listening."

Although Scudder is recognized for her wire art, even collaborating on a piece with poet Skip Largent for the Venice Biennale 2000, she began with more traditional media before sculpting out of 600-foot spools of baling wire.

"I had started as a wildlife illustrator in college, but I got bored with the detailed work and thought it would be fun to make that jump to abstract and loose and whimsical lines," Scudder said.

Like her, Polk worked in more naturalistic art before moving to hurling buckets of paint at aerial photographs.

"For about 20 years, I worked in a figurative style that was very sociopolitical, and that got darker and darker and darker," Polk said. "I was trying to interweave humor and tragedy, and the tragedy was taking over. I realized I had burnt myself out on that and made the decision to move away from that heavy subject matter and work totally abstractly."

Born in Norman, he grew up in Memphis, Tenn., and currently is a professor of art at the University of Arizona. The distance and mystique of his homeland led him to study satellite images of Oklahoma City. The 12 large paintings on display are based on photographs taken miles above the metro and printed on billboard-size vinyl.

"I'm hoping that the viewers will look at the views of the city and then the way the paint resonates with the design of the city, with the river and the arterial highways," he said. "It amazes me how a paint stain or thrown splash kind of blends in totally with the way the city is composed. When I throw the paint, the way it lands on the canvas is a natural act, and there's something about the way a city develops over time that's very natural and organic, even when it's planned."

Oklahoma City landmarks dot Polk's paintings, like in"Birds of Thunder," which includes the 45th Infantry Division Museum in its geography.

Three pieces in the show, including "Omen of the Eagles," reference Homer's epic poem, "The Odyssey."

"In Oklahoma, everything boils down to the land and who's taking care of it and what's happening to it and the ownership issues, petroleum and what's under the land," Polk said. "In the case of Homer's 'Odyssey,' it's about Odysseus trying to get back to his home to reclaim what is his. In a sense, that's also about ownership of land and stewardship of land."

Over the curved rivers and blocks of neighborhoods and industrial districts are aggressive movements of color. Polk mixes some paint as thick as yogurt in buckets, so the colors don't blend even when flying across the canvas, and other paint is made thinner, allowed to flow and dissolve. On top of that, he adds swirling pinstripes with a brush, the only controlled painting in the art.

"I'm heavily invested in the laws of chance," he said. "Before I throw the paint, I spend several hours mixing it and planning it. When I get around to throwing it, it only takes as long as it takes to throw a baseball. No matter how much I plan, throwing the paint never goes the way I thought it would. It's exciting, this dance between me and the process."

Polk will give a free artist talk at 5 p.m. Friday, and lead a painting workshop on "Harnessing Chance" on Saturday."?Allison Meier

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