What’s the connection between Oklahoma City and Savannah? Thanks to SixTwelve’s efforts, an artistic one is in the works.
Oklahoma City native Denise Duong is the first artist to participate in the SixTwelve residency exchange. Her show debuted at Iocovozzi Gallery at the May Art March and will hang throughout the month. As part of the exchange between OKC and SAV, local artist Katherine Sandoz will head to Oklahoma City in June.
SixTwelve is an artistic program started by Amy Young and James Barnum in Oklahoma City, who bought a cottage in 2012 and connected with Savannah later on.
“The goal is to have the residents in both locations create, collaborate, teach, and plan community outreach programming focused on the arts and sustainability,” Young writes in a blog post on 612stories.blogspot.com.
A former resident of Savannah, Young can’t get enough of the experiences the Lowcountry has to offer, from Stopover to Ossabaw Island and everything in between. That love fostered the link between the cities and began the residency exchange.
“I have explored and experienced as much as I could of the area and the culture during every visit, partly because I love it and partly because I wanted to do the best that I could to provide a good experience for both the people we send to Savannah and bring to Oklahoma City,” Young writes.
“It’s important to be a part of both communities if you really want to offer a balanced and reciprocal approach.”
Duong shares Young’s love of the city, calling it “inspiring.” Being the first artist of the exchange is a big honor for her, as she has an active sense of wanderlust.
“I think Amy chose me because she is a big fan of my artwork, and I’m so appreciative of her and her encouragement,” Duong says. “I also am an avid traveler; I travel addictively. I love it, I must have it.”
Denise’s paintings use image transfer and paper collaging to add complexity. Her paintings, at first glance, look like pages out of a children’s book. The people are bright and colorful; in “Bright Eyes,” they wear flowing dresses and soar above shadowy musicians. In “The New Meaning,” a woman in a vintage blue bathing cap sits in a tub full of rose petals with birds perched on the edge. Her characters tend to be exaggerated, with huge heads and spindly legs.
“I think my paintings may be childlike because I can have the spirit of an excited child sometimes,” Duong says. “It’s so nice to look at things with fresh eyes, with that excitement. With age, I feel like people start to get dulled. I like to open my eyes and see everything as a possible adventure. Or I just simply listen, feel, and see things as something beautiful.”
No matter where her travels bring her, Duong uses it to create her kitschy-cute art.
“My inspiration is always my surroundings,” she explains. “That mixed with imagination is a cocktail of Denise Duong.”