All about Eve
Renowned artist Eve Sonneman and Matt Moffett, director of the Tulsa Girls Art School, pose with the abstract painting Sonneman created with TGAS students during her visit to Tulsa in late October.
I love that famous city slickers are seduced out of the Big Apple and into our humble little town. Matt Moffett, director and founder of the Tulsa Girls Art School (TGAS), charmed internationally renowned photographer and painter Eve Sonneman into venturing to Tulsa last October to paint an abstract with his students using her signature technique.
Sonneman is a woman who hung out with Andy Warhol and traded photos with Diane Arbus. How did Moffett pull this off?
Actually, he doesn’t get all the credit. Teresa Valero, applied professor of art at The University of Tulsa, invited Sonneman to present The University of Tulsa Feagin Visiting Lecture in Art, “Photographs and Paintings: 1968-2011.” Moffett then sent Sonneman a video of the Tulsa Girls Art School and proposed his idea to her.
“I wasn’t sure at first,” Sonneman told me during her visit to Tulsa. “But then I saw the video of the girls and Matt, so I knew he was real, and we started talking about the collaboration.”
Sonneman typically presents her lecture strictly to college students but this time tailored it to a younger audience.
“I spent several weeks working on it and made it for all ages,” she says. “I didn’t want anyone to get bored.”
Boring it was not. Viewing her series of black-and-white diptychs and her Sonnegrams series, which includes the dreamy images of a cyclist riding on the Milky Way and a diver on the moon, caused me to look at everyday life a little more mystically.
I’m not the only one Sonneman’s lecture impressed. Monae King, a TGAS student and a ninth-grader at Booker T. Washington High School, found that the lecture widened her boundaries.
“I learned I need to be consistent with my art to be successful,” King says. “And it’s special that she would come to Oklahoma after traveling the world.”
Besides having her photographs in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Art Institute of Chicago; and more than 30 other museums around the world, Sonneman works in paint, making large abstractions that sell for about $80,000 each and creating watercolors and painted objects.
King worked with Sonneman on the special 6-foot-by-3-foot oil-on-linen abstract created during her visit. The look of caviar inspires Sonneman’s technique, so the painting was created with small circles.
King says the painting looks easy to create, but “you have to be distinct with the circles and how much space to leave between them and how much paint to use.”
To find inspiration for the painting, Sonneman and Moffett visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower in Bartlesville, saw buffalo at Woolaroc, ate in the Blue Dome District, toured Philbrook Museum of Art and visited some of Tulsa’s cottage gardens.
One such garden is that of Jan Alexander, which features a bottle tree, a practice that began in the South, where legend claims that blue bottles placed on tree branches keep bad spirits away. The tree reminded Sonneman of her time in graduate school in New Mexico, thus becoming the subject of the abstract painting.
Sonneman usually takes about four months to complete one abstract, but with the help of 20 capable TGAS hands, the work was done in three hours.
“This is much wilder than my paintings!” Sonneman said of the nearly complete work. “It’s a good idea to variegate the green circles; otherwise it would be too flat.”
Moffett said, “I think we should go back and darken it down a bit.”
“Here you go,” she said, handing him the brush.
I was amazed that she could so easily hand over the brush to her abstract painting, but, then again, there isn’t a hint of competition at TGAS; there truly is an air of collaboration and goodwill.
The painting will remain in Tulsa and can be viewed at the Tulsa Girls Art School, 2202 E. Admiral Blvd., from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday, and 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday.
Also this month
“So TU, Think You Can Dance?”
The University of Tulsa is hosting its own competitive dance production to find dancers who represent the best. The audience will determine who is TU’s Top Dancer. Jessica Vokou, assistant professor of dance, directs the competition.
8 p.m., Jan. 21 and 28. Lorton Performance Center, Gussman Concert Hall, 800 S. Tucker Drive. Call 918-631-2567 for tickets, which are $15 for adults and $12 for area students.
Theatre Tulsa presents “Waiting for Lefty” By Clifford Odets
Conceived during the New York City taxi strike of February 1935, Odets’ play uses the strike as a way to attack what he saw as the larger issue: that in the middle of the Great Depression, the capitalist structures of the time remained unaltered.
This production is directed by Michael Wright.
Jan. 13-21. Tulsa Performing Arts Center, John H. Williams Theatre, 110 E. Second St. Tickets are $15. Call 918-596-7111 or visit www.tulsapac.com.