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“My husband doesn’t understand the relationship,” she said. “But she’s free. She can come and go as she likes. I respect her.”

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Nicole Emmons-Willis at Current Studios, Monday, April 4, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Nicole Emmons-Willis at Current Studios, Monday, April 4, 2016.

Somewhere in Oklahoma City is a half-feral cat that artist Nicole Emmons-Willis wishes she could be.

“My husband doesn’t understand the relationship,” she said. “But she’s free. She can come and go as she likes. I respect her.”

That feline helped inform Emmons-Willis’ new exhibit Domesti City, OK, created as the first artist-in-residence at Current Studio, 1218 N. Pennsylvania Ave. The exhibit opens April 21 with an exclusive  patron dinner featuring a four-course vegetarian menu created by Picasso Cafe chef de cuisine Sara Howard and inspired by the art show.

Courses are paired with Prairie Wolf vodka cocktails. Seating is limited to 32, and tickets are $100 each. Reservations are required.

Gallery co-curator Romy Owens said the dinner is a way to reward those who financially support noncommercial art with a special meal and time with the artist to view the exhibit before it opens to the public.

Co-curator Kelsey Karper said they’re trying to create an experience you can’t get anywhere else.

Domesti City, OK combines stop-motion animation, puppetry, performance and an interactive space to explore the dichotomy of “living the dream” of domestic bliss while still yearning for freedom from the drudgery and insanity of a monotonous lifestyle.

Emmons-Willis worked as an animator on Robot Chicken, Little Bill and, most recently, the film Hell and Back. Using her expertise with stop-motion animation and her experience as someone who came to marriage at age 40, she created Domesti City, OK as an examination of the self-imposed entrapment of life in a relationship.

Nicole Emmons-Willis at Current Studios, Monday, April 4, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Nicole Emmons-Willis at Current Studios, Monday, April 4, 2016.

“We have all these roles to fulfill,” she said. “Doing the dishes. Making dinner. Falling in line. What does that mean?”

Her exhibit, including a life-sized dollhouse room, is about navigating what it means to be independent and a feminist while still being a wife.

“I was blown away,” she said of being chosen as Current Studio’s first artist-in-residence.

Karper said Emmons-Willis is the perfect choice because her work exemplifies what she and Owens want the space to become: not simply a gallery for paintings for photography, but a place for art that isn’t about commerce.

Emmons-Willis said working at Current pushed the art farther and its assistance in collaborating and communicating is an immense help.

Following the patron dinner, the studio holds a Grand Opening Sponsor Launch Party 6-8 p.m. April 22 for all sponsors who gave $50 or more. Food is provided by The Metro Wine Bar & Bistro. Sponsor information is at gofundme.com/currentstudio.

The exhibit opens to the public 11 a.m.-6 p.m. April 23. The grand opening weekend closes at 6 p.m. the next night with Sunday Soup, a regularly occurring $10 event to fund upcoming Current Studio projects.

Visit currentstudio.org.

Print headline: House beautiful, Current Studio patrons get a divine dinner and a sneak peek at artist Nicole Emmons-Willis’ new exhibit.

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