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Congratulations Lex! Nice article!

Inspiring skies: 2017 National Weather Center Biennale a destination for weather-themed art

  • By Mack Burke 

NORMAN — Artists have long looked to the skies for inspiration, bringing clouds and windswept scenes to life with the stroke of a brush, or, more recently, the click of a shutter. To see those recreations, people from around the world are once again looking to Norman.

On Sunday, artists and art lovers got their first look at the 2017 National Weather Center Biennale — a bi-yearly art exhibit with a very Oklahoma theme — weather.

“International artists are hearing about Oklahoma and the weather here and are wanting to be a part of it,” NWC spokesperson Kari Roop said.

This year, the exhibit accepted 575 submissions, which were painstakingly whittled down to 91. The $26,000 in cash prizes that were doled out at the awards ceremony during Sunday’s opening reception might have had something to do with the number of submissions. But Roop said the collaboration with the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Norman Arts Council pays dividends that can’t be measured in dollars.

“It’s a unique partnership. We get some grants, the [University of Oklahoma] contributes, as well, and then our college and the National Weather Center also contribute,” she said. “But it does bring a whole different community to the university and the National Weather Center, a whole different community that wouldn’t normally be here. In the long run it’s great for the university and the weather center, as well. I think what’s really making it stick and carry on is the impact it’s making.”

With so many submissions, Artist Joe Goode had his work cut out for him as the show’s juror.

“His thought process was every piece here is amazing, so I can’t judge it strictly on technique,” Roop said. “[Goode] had to look more at the creativity behind it and what went into it. It was an interesting take on it.”

True to his word, he awarded the Best in Show prize (and its accompanying $10,000) to Artemis Herver’s “Meteorite” — a black rock imbedded in cardboard and enhanced with other recyclable materials to create a scene depicting a meteorite post impact.

“It’s different than some winners we’ve had in the past,” Roop said. “But that makes it fun. You never know who the juror is going to pick.”

The category winners took home $5,000 a piece: Saskia Vaughan’s “Lightning and Stars” (photography), Lex Halakan’s “Night Blues” (painting) and Jean M. Judd’s “Shadow of the Past (mixed media).

Halakan, a once New Yorker turned Floridian, said his wife discovered the exhibit opening online and said it would be perfect for his style. Clearly, she was right about the first-prize painter and his palette knife skyscapes.

He said he developed his layer-and-reveal style over the last two decades and change, drawing on what his eyes see and his mind dreams. Then, he lets the palette knife dance, cutting aways pieces here and there to reveal colors that lie beneath.

“Here [in Tampa Bay], especially in the summer when the humidity percolates, the clouds get so vertical. They billow and billow upwards. When the sun is setting over the Gulf of Mexico, the rays of the sun illuminate the upper areas of those clouds over the bay. You just look at it in awe.”

That’s the essence of what the exhibit captures and Halakan said he was grateful to be involved with such good company.

“I was very pleased just to be in the show itself,” he said. I have won awards in the past, but this was a pretty prestigious show and from what I’ve seen the quality of art accepted has been exceptional.”

Roop said the employees of the National Weather Center helped inspire a new category during the last show in 2015.

“We heard some people who work in the building every day say ‘Oh, that’s not what I would have picked. I wish I had a vote.’ So, this year we added a People’s Choice award,” Roop said. “It was really fun. People came up to us and said ‘There are three I really like. What do I do?” I thought, ‘Well, this is how the juror feels.’ It’s a challenge. They’re all amazing.”

While Goode and the staff at the NWC had the challenge of selecting their favorites, Roop said there are other challenges to putting on the show.

“We’re not an art museum,” she said. “So we’re trying to figure out lighting and walls, this isn’t something we do every day. But everyone that comes to see it, everyone who works in the building loves it. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the year.”

And then there are the scientists who just can’t help themselves.

“Our scientists aren’t used to being around art and not being able to be hands on,” she said. “Of course, we ask people not to touch the art. Even though it is compelling.”

The 2017 National Weather Center Biennale is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day and runs through June 19 at the National Weather Center. Admission is free. 

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Shout out to Lex Halakan.  His painting, Night Blues,  won First Place in the National Weather Service Biennale located at the University of Oklahoma! Good job, Lex!


On the radio!

Where's your Artspace?  It's on the radio today!  Deb Webster was interviewed this morning on WAMI radio in Bradenton Beach, Florida.  DJ Tim Hammer did a great job welcoming Artspace Anna Maria to the island!