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In the LIGHT BULB ROOM: The Visual Artist and Ethnicity

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We’re excited to conduct the next installment of our “In the Light Bulb Room” series of open conversational forums in response to artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh‘s powerful exhibition "Oklahoma is Black," visible at Oklahoma Contemporary through May 26.

With her exhibition, Brooklyn-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh stages a poignant and provocative reclamation of the state on behalf of the African-American community of Oklahoma City’s northeast side in which she grew up. An internationally recognized artist whose work seeks to give voice to often marginalized groups like people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community, Fazlalizadeh stands as an exemplary figure for the artist-as-activist.

As such, she bears comparison to another Oklahoma native who demanded, via his novel Invisible Man and in other works, that people rendered invisible by society’s refusal to see them be recognized and their experiences respected. In many ways, however, Ralph Ellison and Fazlalizadeh differ in their creative outlooks, approaches, and strategies in addressing issues of racial justice in America.

With the help of our panelists—all of them visual artists working in Oklahoma—this Light Bulb Room session will examine questions about ethnic identity and artistic expression relating to inspiration, technique, individuality, and politics. Along the way, we will engage with both Fazlalizadeh and Ellison’s work as we explore a variety of ways to contribute to artistic conversations about ethnicity.

This session's panelists will include artists Ebony Iman Dallas, Lawrence Naff, and Narciso Argüelles. Our conversation will take place in the theater at Oklahoma Contemporary and begin at 6:30 PM, but we've scheduled time beforehand and afterwards to allow newcomers to the Contemporary to experience "Oklahoma is Black." An excerpt from Ralph Ellison’s essay “The Art of Romare Bearden” and some questions that will help guide our discussion are available on the Ellison Foundation's website (listed below) and at the Oklahoma Contemporary’s visitor’s desk for those who would like to read in advance.

First launched in 2015, “In the Light Bulb Room” is the Ralph Ellison Foundation’s series of public and open discussion forums that focuses on race and social issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. You can find out more about it at ralphellisonfoundation.org/inthelightbulbroom/.