Weather is much on the minds of Oklahomans this time of year – Endless azure skies, pounding rain, the interplay of sun and shadow, the occasional snowstorm, even a tornado or three … And if you’re visiting Norman’s National Weather Center, you’ll have the opportunity to see all the above and more at once.
From April 19-June 14, the NWC Biennale is blowing back into town. The international art exhibition is a collaboration between OU’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Norman Arts Council, and is designed to give excellent artists a vehicle for exploring the ways weather interacts with and influences our lives.
“Artists reveal the essence of the object,” said Berrien Moore, director of the National Weather Center and a driving force behind the first Biennale (which, by the way, refers to an exhibit repeated every two years) in 2013. “Cezanne and his apples or his Mont Sainte-Victoire – when we have viewed his pictures, we then see freshly the world and ourselves. So it is with the artistic works in this exhibit. Our familiar experiences with weather are refreshed and new insights and emotions become part of us and extend our vision. The artist opens a window on our world, and our horizons deepen.”
That window is, in this case, directed toward the atmospheric fluctuations of the natural world – NAC project manager Tim Stark explains that, “It’s a major show about weather and climate from some of the area’s and nation’s best artists.
“We’ve come in and reorganized, rearranged everything and tried to … ramp up the artwork, ramp up the installation. We’re making a bigger, better show with artwork from established artists and emerging artists from across the country, and international works as well.”
Over 300 works were submitted by this panoply of elite artists, but fewer than a third of them – 88 pieces in all – were chosen for inclusion by juror Mel Chin, a major Houston artist who Stark describes as “a big, big get for the show.” His work is often based on and interested in affecting the community in some way, which ties in nicely with the theme for this biennale.
Stark continues, “The show will display paintings, of both acrylic and oil and anything in between, also photography (black and white and color), in addition to works on paper, which is a very broad category that can range from original monotype prints or etchings to gouache on paper, even to collage. It’s a broad show that basically focuses on 2-dimensional work. We haven’t made the leap to 3-D yet, but that will be coming in the next couple of years. As [the show] develops and blossoms, hopefully so will the public’s interest and demand for more knowledge about the weather and climate.”
There’s even a scientific component to this art show. “In particular, a lot of the artists have works that are specifically about the combination of the two. There are pieces that are using algorithms to create visual artwork based on weather patterns. There are works that are responding to climate change. It’s very much a collision, and a creative mixing of the two, and in a really wonderful way. I’m really excited for the selection that we’ve seen; it takes the whole show to another level.”
The selected winners in each category – painting, photography and works on paper – will receive cash prizes in recognition of their accomplishment, all of which will be selected by Chin and announced at the public opening April 19. Best in Show will take home $10,000, and the winner of each individual category will receive $5,000 – which is pretty impressive.
The biennale is hosted in the atrium of the NWC itself, and is free to attend. You can even schedule a tour of the state-of-the-art facility and explore both in the same trip.
This exhibit serves as a chance for artists to display their craftsmanship, and to investigate weather and climate, and give them a further reason to start doing so in a creative way. Stark says that “All the artists are really doing a lot of excellent work in making materials that respond to that basic premise of weather, this natural thing that impacts all of our lives, and how it’s changing us and how we respond to it in a way that brings in more than just documentation, but responds conceptually and emotionally to that idea.” There’s a whole world of weather phenomena waiting; exploring it will be a pleasure.