Post-college, many artists enter a difficult transition where they can't rely on scholarships, grants and awards, and must forge an audience for their work in the art world.
Mainsite Contemporary Art's "Emergent Artists" show focuses on four artists tramping out their own paths as they work to establish their careers.
"Being an emerging artist means you are on the borderline of finding collectors," said Kolbe Roper, one of the artists chosen for the exhibit. "You are being taken more seriously. Not so much just filling high school and college art projects "? you are thinking for yourself. You are taking what you've learned and applying it."
Roper is a sculptor and painter whose mixed-media pieces incorporate everything from ram skulls and whiskey bottles to casts of fingers and human hair. His work often deals with themes of identity, interaction and sexuality. He said he prepared a series of portraits inspired by his for the exhibit "? a first for the Edmond artist.
"One of the things they say to beginning photographers is that if you can't take a great picture in your back yard, then you shouldn't even pick up a camera," Roper said. "That is kind of the same thing in painting, mixed-media or sculpture work, that if you can't find something in your own home that you can't make interesting, then you are in the wrong field."
He said he doesn't think he can sustain a long-term art career in Oklahoma and will leave the state next fall to attend graduate school and find markets that he hopes will embrace his work.
Dylan Bradway is staying put, however. His style combines elements of illustration, graffiti and urban art, and he is part of a growing trend where artists ditch canvases in favor less expected formats, like skateboards and shoes. Bradway earns his living as a graphic designer for a local advertising agency, which he said allows him to avoid depending on art as a sole revenue source.
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to just have a career just in my art, but it will always be a big part of my life," he said. "I would prefer it to just be my passion and not a job."
Bradway and his wife helped found the "Canvas" art show, where artists are given a pair of canvas slip-on shoes and given free reign over the design. He said there is a growing audience looking for art that strays from the traditional formats.
"Young professionals are starting to gain the ability to buy art and the new types of artists emerging aren't your normal landscape and Native American artists," he said. "I don't know if they will ever be museum pieces. I'm not sure if that type of art is conducive to the Louvre, but there are internationally known artists doing these types of things, and it is good to see underground art becoming the mainstream idea of what art is."
It's these emerging art forms that offer him and others the chance to build a movement within the state "? an opportunity that makes him hesitant to move to a larger market.
"It is a good thing being part of a community that has room to grow, to be a part of that and to build on the community makes you create more and better work," Bradway said. "You get to see it grow rather than coming in from the outside like you would in New York or L.A."