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Pushing the limits, 150 local artists think outside the box



ust be less than 12 inches by 12 inches if 2-D, or 12 inches cubed if 3-D.

This year's show will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday inside the Fred Jones Industries Building, 900 W. Main. The event is a major fund-raiser for the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition.

"More than any other event, it's a one-stop crash course in contemporary art in the state," said M.J. Alexander, a local photographer and "12x12" artist. "The uniqueness of '12x12' is that it showcases a wide spectrum of Oklahoma artists "? some established, some emerging "? and works from oils to ceramics to sculpture to photography to fiberworks to glass art to pieces that incorporate aspects of each."

The exhibit features food from 25 area restaurants, a cash bar and live music. Local musicians Ali Harter, the Elad Katz Trio and Tragic Squeeze will perform, while students from the Classen School of Advanced Studies act as strolling musicians. An accordion and concertina duo will play in the building's massive freight elevator that lifts attendees up to the exhibition space.

All "12x12" art will be sold in a silent, blind auction where buyers will not be able to know what others have already bid. Prices for each piece will start at $168, and buyers have an option of skipping the bidding process and purchasing the pieces immediately if they are willing to pay the artists' set "buy it now" price. The bidding system and generally low prices add excitement to the event, as buyers circle and huddle around their favorite selections, hoping to win bids and audibly groaning when their picks are bought immediately.

The dimensions of the works and the affordability of the art have made "12x12" unique, but the originality of the artists working within the set space has continued to create excitement about each annual event.

"I'm accustomed to creating larger works, so I really have to think outside the box to come up with something that's one foot square," Alexander said. "This year, I pondered the project for several weeks and came up with an image that distills the regalia and ferocity of John Keel, one of Oklahoma's most decorated Northern Traditional dancers, into an elegant minimalist study in black, white and red."

Artists have the option to donate all the proceeds to OVAC or receive 50 percent of the sale. Last year, more than 90 percent of the art was purchased, with more than 1,000 people in attendance, according to event organizers.

Painter Jennifer Barron is a member of the board at OVAC and this is her fourth time to be in "12x12." Her piece this year juxtaposes a close-up of a chipped concrete sidewalk with a block grid, showing the micro and macro of the city.

"'12x12' makes me experiment in different ways and I have to think about what subject matter would work on a different scale," Barron said.

With a goal to promote interest in the visual arts, OVAC organizes events like "12x12," "Art 365" and "Momentum" to engage the community while making it easier for individual artists to gain recognition for their work.

"Anytime you support OVAC, you're supporting Oklahoma and you're supporting a more active art scene," Barron said.

Suzanne Mitchell and Susan Beaty are the volunteer chairs of this year's "12x12" committee and are part of a larger group of lawyers, advertisers, marketers, volunteers and visual artists that spend all year organizing the show.

"One thing I always look for in an urban area is what the art community it doing," Mitchell said. "They set the tone for the larger community, and '12x12' shows our investment in all the talent that we've got locally."

New to 2008's "12x12" will be a photo booth run by photographer Romy Owens, who will take candid shots of attendees that will later be e-mailed to them. Everyone who attends will be entered to win door prizes donated by area stores and companies.

"I think furthering artists and particularly visual arts through the state improves creativity and the quality of life," Beaty said. "I think it makes for a more interesting world to live in."

"12x12" has a history of being shown in offbeat venues that are either centers for local art or completely outside the gallery circuit. Past locations include the Kirkpatrick Center, the Oklahoma School of Science and Math, TAParchitecture and The Montgomery.

"We typically take unfinished places to work in and the Fred Jones Industries Building is a warehouse and it has a great view of the city," Mitchell said. "The venues are usually urban landscapes, sometimes buildings under construction or soon to be condemned."

"?Allison Meier


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