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[00:00:00] Marissa Raglin: Welcome to the Rally podcast and I’m Marissa Raglin.
[00:00:15] Josh Vaughn: I’m Josh Vaughn, and we are co-founders of Rally. We are all about cultivating community through creativity. In this podcast series, we explore creative communities and the communal landscape they’ll foster. Welcome to my living room.
[00:00:25] Marissa Raglin: Today, we were talking to Romy Owens, a multidisciplinary artist from Enid, Oklahoma. Romi creates with great intentionality and her desire for community and collaboration is at the forefront of her artistic journey.
We’re very excited to talk with her about her current fiber works, upcoming collaborative projects and more so let’s get started. So thank you so much for being here around me. Um, do you remember how we met?
[00:00:50] Romy Owens: I’m so embarrassed that I don’t, I, I thought, I think. I mean, it could be so many things and, you know, we all meet so many people.
My, my first thought would be that we met at a Momentum. I mean, Momentum just seems like such a natural place where I have met so many people. Right. But please tell me, how did we meet Marissa?
[00:01:18] Marissa Raglin: So I have this distinct memory, like where I was really getting to know you and that’s true. The Elaborate Collaborate project.
[00:01:26] Romy Owens: Yep.
[00:01:27] Marissa Raglin: So. Could you maybe share a little bit about what that project was?
[00:01:31] Romy Owens: I can, and I’m happy to, um, I wouldn’t have thought that because, and here’s why, because that was in 2015.
[00:01:39] Marissa Raglin: Yes.
[00:01:40] Romy Owens: And I thought we known each other longer than that, but, um, yeah, so the Elaborate Collaborate was a project that Kelsey Karper and I co curated that was at IAO in 2015.
And we put together, um, I want to say in total it was 54 artists. So it would have been 40 something in drawing and 10 in video and did a collaboration project in the style of the exquisite corpse. And I just, I mean, I loved that project. I thought it was so great. It was one of the more fulfilling and just watching how people work together and added, and the conversation about it.
And the fact that people kept coming back to the gallery over and over to watch how it all transformed. You know, it’s a such a leap of faith when you’re putting together anything. And then that all those, all of you and all those artists kind of came along for the ride. And I think we created something special.
[00:02:36] Marissa Raglin: Yeah. I completely agree. The, the idea to even be selected for that project. I, it was a huge confidence boost for me and having the opportunity to see the other artists in the Metro in the area and get to know their style of working and then collaborate. It was a really cool.
[00:02:52] Romy Owens: I learned so much through the process of that, um, about the artists.
It was so interesting. One of the artists specifically that I was just like, wait, what, what is happening here? Is Cassie Stover. Oh yeah. I don’t know if you remember the, the nitty gritty of the details of that. We, everybody started with panel and a drawing, and then we hung them all up and they could be taken on and off the wall and artists could contribute to other artists work and it was up for a month or six weeks.
I can’t exactly remember how long it was up. And so what, how it started is radically different than how it ended. But there was one week when someone went in and any erased work. Um, and it was, it was interesting. Cause it did really contribute to this conversation of like, Well, is it, is it, does everything have to be added or can things be subtracted?
Is this part of a dialogue? And that conversation was really interesting to me, but the result after that was, oh, Cassie Stover can do anything in anybody style. So anybody who could draw anything in their own unique style, Cassie Stover could come in and theoretically, look at it and completely replicate it.
And you wouldn’t know, is that Cassie’s work or is that Marissa’s work or Jennifer’s work or Allison’s like, you don’t know whose work it is because she is so skilled in the variety of style that she can do. Oh, God. Anyway, I’m going on way too long about Cassie. I’m just such a fan of her work. And I mean, I learned like that kind of detail about 50 other artists.
It was really, it was so cool.
[00:04:40] Josh Vaughn: I love other artists being that excited about other artists.
[00:04:43] Romy Owens: Oh yeah.
[00:04:43] Josh Vaughn: I knew you first landed on my radar with, I think I read an article about the Unbearable Absence of Landscapes and just what you were attempting and all that. At first it made my carpal tunnel, like start acting up me just reading the article.
It was unbelievable that your knit bomb across 108 Contemporary, which is ridiculous. I’ve met you whenever I would go help Marissa or hang out with Marissa over at Next Door Studio. Oh. And that was under Current Studio, which is a project you had with Kelsey Karper, which is a lot of fun. I met you there, but then I had the privilege of finally meeting you, meeting you. And when we all three worked on Symbiotic I. Thank you. Thank you, Jarica Walsh.
Yeah, but that was a, that was just the thing that stood out to me is all three of those are very much community-oriented community is so deeply woven into it. You could tell that it was part of your personality that was seeping into all your art. It was just like, let’s get other people in trouble with us.
Let’s do this. I just really love the idea of it. Of course, with a name like Rally, that’s the whole idea of getting people together to start something or to do that .
It seems like good trouble.
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Uh, so community appears to be at like at the core of your motivation and artistic practice.
Can you share why that is and what community fuels your creativity?
[00:06:05] Romy Owens: Well, part of it is definitely rooted in the we-ness like I loved, we, I love we, I don’t, I mean, I, I like when people can work individually and express themselves and I can appreciate that, but I, I feel like I always want to come at everything in as inclusive, a way as possible, because more is more.
And just saying those words feels real trite almost, but. I don’t know. I feel like every single time I have been engaged in community activity or community practice, it’s just always more fulfilling because you’re having a shared experience like, like ArtistINC is, or like the Elaborate Collaborate it was, or like current, like just Current Studio all of these things.
It’s like, well, you’re kind of going through something together. And that connection that you can make with people, I feel it validates my own feelings about it. I feel like it’s beneficial to me as well as to others. And I think that mutually beneficial component is it’s just so rewarding that it’s hard to get away from it.
And when I go back to individual practice, I enjoy that and I do love what I make individually, but I always find myself longing for the next group activity. So I think that’s part of the why. I also though I had this whole background prior to being an artist where I worked nonprofit and the reason I work nonprofit, it’s not unlike the reason that I like community activity through art.
It’s it is all based upon the idea of making things better. And I think, for me to think as an individual that I have that power is one foolish and incorrect, but I do have the power to connect and to build coalitions. And I, and I think that that’s powerful.
[00:08:12] Josh Vaughn: Yeah. And I think that it’s taps into something I believe is that art is intended to be communal.
It’s not just in the, not just in the appreciation of it, but also in the making of it. And. If, if you are an artist that is successful, you’re probably tapping into, you know, your group of people in your community of people and for you, what is that community that’s making you Romy Owens.
[00:08:38] Romy Owens: It’s just the Okla, it’s the broadest sense? The Oklahoma art community. It just is. I like, I really love being rooted here. I really love the potential of how we are such a small state relatively, and how big of an impact art can have within a smaller state. If we were in a larger state that was just like art all the time everywhere, does it lose its value?
No, not necessarily that, but it becomes harder to kind of cut through the noise and find what’s meaningful. Um, here, I feel like the potential for showing meaning through art is it’s more readily assessable and maybe that’s foolish or arrogant,
[00:09:22] Josh Vaughn: But it’s a unique perspective I really like.
[00:09:25] Romy Owens: um, so, but it’s the, it’s the broadest Oklahoma artists community that I feel profound connection to and want to be a part and, and proud to be a part of.
[00:09:37] Josh Vaughn: Right
[00:09:40] Romy Owens: Certainly, here when I was living in Oklahoma City, I mean, core cluster of people and community that I really am missing very much. Um, in Enid, I had that too. It’s a little bit of a smaller group, but I mean, I ha I have people in Enid and they helped me feel like we can do anything. And that is amazing.
[00:10:06] Marissa Raglin: Yeah, you have you people in your corners where you need them. Yup. I’m really curious about learning more about Sugar High. I think I’d love to start there. And you, you mentioned your community and Enid. Could you tell us more about what we can expect with Sugar High opening up soon?
[00:10:21] Romy Owens: Right. We open in less than six weeks.
I’m not nervous about that at all. Not even a little bit. Um, cause we are actually on a really good timeline. Like we’re kind of on schedule, which is it’s amazing. And I love it. Um, what can you expect? Overstimulation for sure. Um, It is, it’s not subtle. There’s nothing subtle about Sugar High that’s for sure. So we are envisioning and creating a world of fictional science fiction narrative, where everybody only eats sugar and instant gratification as way of life.
So we’re kind of observing, what’s kind of happening in modern day America, let’s say without throwing everybody in the world under the bus where yeah, we don’t on the whole have the healthiest diets and on the whole, we are very… we have been conditioned to think that we can get whatever we want whenever we want it.
And I’m not, I’m not absolving myself of that. I’m as guilty of all of that. And it’s not like I’m saying, oh, all these it’s like, no, I’m part of this too. And it’s hard not to observe that within media, news, everything it’s just it’s jarring. So we’re taking that kernel of what is a small challenge within American society and blowing it up into the future of like, this is where it leads to.
Um, it’s very kid-centric for a few reasons. One, one is very genuinely when this idea came to be, it was like, you know, what would really serve this community? And having spent three years closely paying attention to the Enid community, one thing that kept coming up over and over was the, that there is a genuine need for family entertainment.
Um, and I don’t think Enid has got an exclusive, hold on that I think that’s true in lots of communities.
[00:12:38] Marissa Raglin: Right.
[00:12:39] Romy Owens: Um, but family entertainment. So then, so then your challenge becomes, how do you create something that entertains kids, teens, young adults and parents and potentially grandparents. And so when we put together our core group at the very beginning, and we’re having this conversation about like, okay, we know we want to do something immersive, we know we wanna do something that’s really unique to Enid that really can engage people from the broadest backgrounds and bring them all together in art to have this shared experience.
What could it be about? And I think I just like pretty flippantly threw out an idea. I was like, what if we made it all about sugar and color and fun. And that our core team that we started with, we all agreed that that would be a really great direction. So, as it’s as the storyline is evolved. And you think about how you can engage a toddler and a grandparent at the same time, you have to make it engaging to the toddler with secret stuff the toddler won’t understand, but the grandparent will. So it’s, Wall-E the movie like we’re not doing Wall-E literally, obviously at all, but it’s like Wally in that Wall-E is really a movie about a robot, if you’re a kid. Like it’s this trash compacting robot, but if you’re a grownup and you really see what’s happening here, this is like an environmental disaster movie.
Like, you know, it’s in time scary. Everybody’s on a space station, eating slurries of unknown origin. If you think about that, that’s horrifying. So you’ve got this kid’s movie that then has adult appeal, or you have the converse of that. You have a movie like Idiocracy, which is not a kid’s movie at all. It is definitely an adult movie with language and with content and everything, but we’re taking kernels of that and making them kid-appropriate.
[00:14:46] Josh Vaughn: It looks like the lineup of artists that are contributing to the Sugar High is just amazing. Can you share what excites you the most about this collaboration with other artists
[00:14:58] Romy Owens: I am happy to what excites me about collaboration in general in any collaboration is that, I have all the knowledge that I’m not the smartest person in the room, the best artist in the room, it is only because I can tap into other people and their skills and their knowledge and build something that is bigger than any single one of us. So we’ve got, we do have a really great lineup of artists for Sugar High.
That includes some various established, uh, incredibly successful long time career artists. But we have, uh, even more emerging artists who this is their first, this is the first thing they’re doing, or they haven’t done anything, uh, collaboratively or as a group. Like all of these things are are first for them. This is the first paycheck for some artists like.
[00:15:51] Josh Vaughn: Oh, cool.
[00:15:51] Romy Owens: So exciting. It’s so fun to be able to do that, but the ideas that have come out of just you know, we formed this kernel of a concept. And then when we opened it up for people to submit their ideas, like their submissions, push the story forward and helped us realize deeper ways in which to kind of explore this territory of sugar and immediate gratification.
And it’s really, it’s been really rewarding. I love it. I mean, Rock Candy Industries, as an example is our fictitious megacorp. You know, you have to know that there’s a megacorp in the future and Wall-E it’s Buy N Large like there’s an Idiocracy ocracy. They have a, I feel like the Taco Bell is like the bank or something.
So our, our megacorp is Rock Candy Industries. Um, which you learn about in Sugar High, but that came out of somebody’s submission. Like that didn’t come from the core team, or it wasn’t a part of our original thing. Kiona Millirons who is one of the artists in it. When she submitted her work, she came up with this kind of narrative for this matriarch of this mega corp candy company.
And it was like, oh, well, that’s, that’s awesome. And rich. And we need to dive into that a little deeper. Um, and Nick Bayer is another great example of someone who, who, what he, what he proposed was not like we didn’t put up any specifications, really past money and the basic concept and he came up with ants.
It was like, well, what if I make these ants? And it’s like, And the ants have a whole storyline that he came up with like, great, this is perfect. It really, it just makes the whole thing better. So that’s the, those are some of the great things. Um, the emerging artists who are working on it, oh God, I just love what they’re making.
And I hope when people come and they see Sugar High, it’s not about any individual, but I do hope that when people do come and they see something that they like that they’ll, they will then dive, the audience we’ll dive a little deeper into who those artists are.
[00:18:16] Josh Vaughn: Yeah. That’s very cool. I love the ambition and vision behind Sugar High. I love the great communal call to artists to create this awesome and collective expression. But I want to know why is it important that Sugar High is in Enid?
[00:18:31] Romy Owens: Cause that’s where I live. Yeah. I mean that then it’s where I live. If I were here, I don’t know that I would have even had this idea. I mean, well, in fact, I can tell you this.
If I lived here, I would not have had this idea. I would have said, you know what? Factory Obscura is already doing immersive. There’s not a need for that in this community because they do it so well. And they’re so successful and they’re expanding in so many beautiful ways. Enid doesn’t have visual art.
I mean, there’s, there is public art and I don’t mean to say that there’s not. We got dozens of murals. We’ve got quite a few sculptures. There’s there’s great visual art to be seen. There’s not a gallery. There’s not, there’s no opening. There’s no, there, there’s not really the space for that. And so trying to sell visual art in Enid is tricky because it’s not a part of the communities language.
[00:19:36] Josh Vaughn: Yet.
[00:19:37] Romy Owens: Uh, well, and it, and it is now not everybody there loves it. Right. But I can’t care about the people who don’t love it. I have to go for the people who do and for the people who don’t even know that they don’t have an opinion on it yet. Like, yeah, I can’t help, but just think that Enid and lots of small communities, just, they, they need more perspective-broadening experiences. Not that their experiences aren’t valid or worth having, because of course they are everybody’s experiences are valid and worth having, but man, like, can we, can we have more like, does it have to just be this? Can we have more? And so it’s hard not to see a need in Enid for more art and as long as I’m there, I’m going to keep pushing that button.
[00:20:37] Josh Vaughn: Yeah. We both are very, very passionate about being intentional about putting art in places where it’s not supposed to be, or not, not in a defiant way, but just like you just get a stumble upon it. And you’re like, whoa, that’s, that’s different.
Why is there this here? Because then people who didn’t start off the day or may have never started a day planning to engage art and creativity, and as part of that communal experience, they now are experiencing it. And it’s just, it’s fun to watch the interactions. And sometimes the little keys turned and somebody’s entire mind and everything has changed.
And sometimes those people start liking art. Sometimes those people go and start making art. And that’s that for me, that is, that’s why it, things like that need to happen. They need to be an in Enid. They need to be everywhere.
[00:21:26] Romy Owens: They do need to be everywhere. That is one of the things that since the Wing happened, Um, and introduced art into the public vernacular in a way that no one expected, but it did.
I mean, yeah. You have a community of 50,000 people talking about art really for the first time. That’s pretty powerful. It was pretty exciting, even though so much of it was negative. There was so much positive that came out of it. And I think the same is true for Sugar High. I mean, people are talking about it and whether they’re excited about it or they’re not excited about it.
Like, how can I not be proud that Enid is talking about art for the first time in decades? Probably. I don’t know. I mean, yeah, it’s pretty cool. It’s pretty cool. And it’s real easy to see how one thing begets another and you see more people taking risks and you see more people kind of embracing non-conformity and not being afraid of it.
[00:22:31] Marissa Raglin: What is the like structure like for Sugar High? What’s the footprint?
[00:22:36] Romy Owens: You mean like the physical footprint? So we’re in a building or in a borrowed space. I have to say, like, Rob Cummins owns the space in downtown Enid and he is letting us use it rent free for six months. And that that’s awesome because you know, a lot of business owners are not quite as generous when they could be collecting rent.
And we said, we don’t want to pay rent. And he was like, okay, he owns a building. So there’s that advantage? You know, it’s not like he has a mortgage. He has to pay on it. Um, it is a 2000 square foot floor building wide, deep, I don’t know, 40 feet. A hundred feet. I don’t know what it is. I haven’t measured it in so long.
That’s been, I’ve slept since then, but it’s big. It’s 2000 square feet. And in the center of the existing space was a sunken pit. Like that goes 15 by maybe 20 feet deeper. So it’s a, it was a pretty big pit. Um, and so when we toured it as a team, the five of us, me, Ben, Tox, Riley and Kelly, when we toured it, Ben, his brain just started buzzing instantly about the potential with what this pit alone presented to us.
Um, in terms of building out the space with construction, cause that’s, his purview is making shape of the space.
[00:24:02] Marissa Raglin: Awesome.
[00:24:03] Romy Owens: So we have three levels of engagement. So we have a there’s stairs that go up in a place and there are stairs that go down in a place and we’ve got a slide and we’ve got a lot of things that are at ground level.
So 90% of it is ADA wheelchair accessible or walker assessable. Um, but there are two places where, yeah, there’s stairs and go to is cool places. So it’s 11 different spaces broken up in this 2000 square feet. We’ve got, you know, an entry and then you can pass through, uh, it’s meandering path through multiple rooms that are kind of thematically different.
[00:24:48] Marissa Raglin: Okay.
[00:24:48] Romy Owens: I don’t know. And I’m happy to talk about them if you want, but I’m also like how much do you give away?
[00:24:54] Josh Vaughn: No, I think, I think you’re getting people’s imaginations going and they’ll want to go and see what’s happening in Enid.
[00:25:02] Romy Owens: It’s been really fun walking people through the space because there’s no art in there yet.
I mean, there’s a little bit Tox Murillo uh, who was part of the core five in the beginning has been doing some on-site murals on walls and filling up window spaces. And so there is some art on site right now for the most part. It’s still construction painting, preparing for art deliveries. Um, But, yeah, it’s, uh, it’s been fun walking people through because I don’t, I think the value in being underestimated over and over is really remarkable.
And so when someone comes through and they’re like, oh, this is a lot. And it’s like, yeah, this is a lot. It’s a lot, it’s so much work. Like I was there painting this morning.
[00:25:49] Marissa Raglin: Um, and so you’re still actively fundraising and it opens April 1st. That’s awesome. We’ve got to direct people to Sugar High website.
[00:25:59] Romy Owens: Yeah. SugarHighEnid.com. Yeah. There’s an Insta @SugarHighEnid. It is our Insta and there’s a Facebook page.
[00:26:07] Marissa Raglin: Perfect. So Romy, do you consider yourself to be a creative?
[00:26:11] Romy Owens: Well, yeah. Yeah, I do. I don’t know. I don’t know who isn’t.
Kind of, I mean, don’t, we all have the capacity to express in different ways. Like I’m not naturally intuitive with math, but I mean, I can do math. I would not call myself a mathematician, but I can apply math to what I’m doing. And I think that the converse is true in other fields with creativity, with art, with music.
And I, I can’t help, but feel like in every pocket of the world, like, even if you’re not actively making, you are consuming creativity through music, through theater, through dance, through movies, television, visual, art gaming. I mean, there’s so many ways in which creativity filters into our lives. And I think that there’s a real obstacle for a lot of people who maybe are introverted, or maybe have a little insecurity around their own expressiveness to label themselves an artist or label themselves a creative. Yeah, I get it. I guess. I don’t know. I mean, I’m an artist, that’s my occupation and I am creative and I would be lying to say, I’m not. I live in a imaginary world, easily 30% of the time.
[00:27:48] Josh Vaughn: So, what is your origin story? How does the multi-discipline artist grow a passion for community, create detailed international work, and debut concepts and collaborative efforts in multiple cities here in Oklahoma.
[00:28:03] Romy Owens: What makes any of us the way we are?
[00:28:06] Josh Vaughn: What made you Romy today?
[00:28:10] Romy Owens: Hmm, my mom, yeah, my sister, the community of Enid.
I mean so much television, so much television latchkey children through the seventies, child of divorce, lots of television, lots of storytelling, lots of books. I read. I was a voracious reader as a child, but when it came around to might say high school, I mean in high school, my senior year, I should preface by saying non-sports fan.
I mean, I don’t mind that people are sports fans and I’m glad people like sports, but I’m not a sports fan, but in my senior year of high school, I was voted the most spirited student. Like for every spirit day, I was like over the top spirit, cheer, rah, I wasn’t a cheerleader. I wasn’t on pep squad. I wasn’t on any of those things, but definitely a big fan of raising enthusiasm.
[00:29:16] Josh Vaughn: Because you’re good at it.
[00:29:17] Romy Owens: I, I think I have a natural aptitude for it, for sure. Um, Yeah. When I was little, the fields I was drawn to were always creative fields. Like for a long time, I wanted to be a photographer growing up for a long time. I wanted to be an interior designer growing up for a long time.
Like there were these paths and high school, and then, you know, they just get squashed by grownups who are like, you’re never going to make a living doing that. And so I kind of was routed towards education. I was like, I don’t really want to be a teacher. I have taught at different times in my life. Um, my degree ended up being in media.
I was in PR for a while, doing nonprofit PR done youth programming. I don’t know. My origin story is an artist is accidental. I, after 9/11 had my own version, like so many people did have a, like a nervous breakdown. I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, but it was like an existential crisis is a much better word for it.
Like what’s meaning of life. Life is short. Look, this awful thing just happened on American soil. What’s going to happen next, like everything about the uncertainty of it. And I’m sure that the pandemic right now is going to be that kind of spark for a whole other, I mean, while we’ve already seen it with the great resignation, I mean, people are reassessing their lives and deciding what to do.
So 9/11 was a pivotal moment for me in shifting. And I went back to school and got a masters in photography with no art background, with no art education. I never took art in junior high or in high school. I got a U in art in the fifth grade. I was never, uh, I was never geared towards that. I never would have thought I had a natural aptitude for art until I went.
I was like, I just love photography. I’m just going to this one. I’m going to do, I’m going to study photography. I’m going to learn about it. And I, I was in the darkroom one night at OCU and Shad Thetford. And Trent Lawson were in the studio late at night. And I came out with a print and I was like, what about this?
And it was like, that was the first piece of art I’d ever made. And it was just like this very simple black and white photograph, but the nuance and the paper on the time I’d spent with dodging and burning and making it perfect. And. Like we all were like, yeah, that’s you, you have made your first piece of art.
[00:31:47] Josh Vaughn: That was cool.
[00:31:48] Romy Owens: And then from there, you know, you meet people and it’s just like, I don’t know if I hadn’t met Trent, I probably wouldn’t have met Julia. And then I would like, it just kind of snowballs from there.
[00:32:00] Marissa Raglin: So it’s like collaboration and community is in the core of the origin story too for you.
[00:32:06] Romy Owens: It is, it is.
And I, you know, I wouldn’t want to dismiss the fact that like my parents were very community involved adults. So I had that modeling, like growing up, we didn’t have visual art there, but my parents were really involved in Gaslight and they were, they attended the symphony regularly. And when we would travel as a family, it was really fortunate at a young age to have a lot of traveling experiences around the United States.
We’d go to museums and we’d see things. And so that exposure to art was always there. Art appreciation was always there, but it really was after 9/11 that I was like, I don’t want to do this. And life is short and I want to do something that makes me happy. And then of course I’m doing this thing, that’s making me happy.
And I’m thinking like, I should be making the world a better place. How do I do that? And so that’s how it just expands out.
[00:33:01] Marissa Raglin: I think it was back when you were my landlord back in the Next Door Studio days. It does , my slum lord! No, no you’re great. And, um, I think back to hearing you share that everything is temporary.
And so even when you’re sharing your origin story, I hear those notes too, of like no time, but the present. So can you share more about everything is temporary and how that mantra fits in with your work?
[00:33:31] Romy Owens: I love that mantra I’m I do. And I do believe that everything is temporary. I believe that whole-hearted well, I don’t, like, I can believe it up one side down the other and you cannot believe it.
It doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. Everything is temporary. Even the mountains change. Um, yeah, it just seems like in a place where everything is we’re temporary. Every relationship is ephemeral. Every it’s all meaningful, but it all ends. And why wouldn’t we be doing the most we can with our lives, just to be fulfilled and to do what makes us happy without doing harm to other people ever.
You know, I mean, I get that. Some people, their happiness would come at great expense to other people and I would never advocate for that. Um, but yeah, we should be doing all that we can to make the world better.
[00:34:36] Marissa Raglin: It sounds like it’s fuel. Like I’m just thinking of it’s fuel to continue creating for you.
[00:34:44] Romy Owens: It’s certainly, uh, is that is actually, um, it’s almost an oxygen and what. What that idea, that philosophy that mentality has done for me is liberate me where it’s like, well, what, what is, what is the worst that’s gonna happen?
[00:35:04] Josh Vaughn: Right.
[00:35:05] Romy Owens: Literally what’s the worst that’s going to,
[00:35:07] Josh Vaughn: That kind of scrapes the edge off of some of the like artists, or we always have self-doubt we always have imposter syndrome, things like that. That kind of, uh, having that mindset for me on the outside, looking in, it looks like you’ve, I don’t doubt that you still have times where you’re just like, I don’t know what I’m doing, you know, they’re going to find out whatever, but you’re just like, I’m going to do it anyways.
There’s no time, you know?
[00:35:30] Romy Owens: Well, yeah, there, I mean, there certainly are people who think I’m a fraud already and whatever. I mean, you know, that’s just, it like whenever they’re entitled to their opinion, maybe I am a fraud. I don’t know. I don’t think I’m a fraud. I don’t feel like a fraud. I feel like I’m doing the best that I can with my human body and my human brain.
But, um, but yeah, why wouldn’t we just tell me doing stuff? I know that fear is a big factor for a lot of people in taking risks. I just, I guess don’t. I have that fear. I just don’t have that fear because what is the worst I’m going to fail? Is that the worst thing that’s going to happen? Yeah. Well, I I’ve failed a million times.
Like, and somehow I’m still here
[00:36:20] Josh Vaughn: probably at some point you, you failed and you’re like, well, I wonder why he had done that. And I moved forward and know I learned stuff. And so a lot of times I think th those failures are. What makes us and gives us the, the mettle to become who we need to be the person who’s making successful art and is being successful.
So it’s almost like we have to jump, I mean, right. And we have to fail. We’ve got to hit some stuff on the way down and get back up and go again.
[00:36:50] Marissa Raglin: Yeah. I think when I was painting in college, it’s like the messy middle and working through that to get through the, the next steps
[00:37:00] Josh Vaughn: For those who aren’t familiar, Romy has created a large public work of art Enid at Oklahoma entitled Under Her Wing Was The Universe.
This project consists of a 2.5 acre native prairie landscape with a large scale sculptural pavilion that shelters, visitors, and invites them to escape into daydreams and possibilities. Can you share with us your favorite aspects of creating this public work of art?
[00:37:22] Romy Owens: Yes. That’s easy. My favorite aspect of creating the wing was hearing stories from the people who donated, who got a star named it.
That was beautiful and heartbreaking. And I cried and I laughed and I got hundreds of stories. That was hands down the most beautiful that I, that I could create something that could give people a sense of remembrance for their loved ones is, uh, incredibly fulfilling. And those stories. Will linger in my brain until I have dementia.
Like they, they are, they were powerful and it was, it was really meaningful and I wouldn’t share any, and I certainly didn’t post any. Um, it’s an honor that anyone would have divulged or shared trust. I trusted me with it, trusted me with the idea of a star that would honor their person, and then that they felt comfortable enough to tell me the story of who and why that was the best part of it.
Without a doubt.
[00:38:47] Marissa Raglin: I was one of those that sent a story and I would just love to share with you that it provided me with a way to process my grief. And so my uncle had passed from cancer and seeing this project and the it just seems so enormous. It seemed like such an undertaking and for my little voice to have a possibility to uplift someone that was so special to me and also donate for a bad-ass art project.
It was so cool. So what a thoughtful way to lift up people and provide them with an avenue like that.
[00:39:29] Romy Owens: Thank you. I, I mean, I still feel so good about the concept and everything about what that art was meant to be and do. Um, and it, and it really, I mean, it is an honor. And thank you.
[00:39:42] Marissa Raglin: I’m curious about the skills that you learned in seeing this project through and no doubt the challenges and, but then the excitement and seeing it come to completion.
So could you kind of walk us through those skills that you feel like you’ve come.
[00:39:58] Romy Owens: Yeah, I had, I learned so much through that process. I learned so much, I learned a lot about architecture and I learned a lot about construction that I didn’t know, going into that, um, enough to know. I don’t know that I’ll work with those materials again.
Um, I might, not if I have to raise the money to do it though, um. The single biggest skill that I honed and perfected was patience. And I don’t say that lightly. That was the most exhaustive experience I’ve ever been through in my entire life. What’s the worst that will happen. It’s already on it. That already happened.
Like anything is possible now.
[00:40:45] Josh Vaughn: That’s something too that I’ve noticed is not all your projects, but you’ve had several projects that, that I feel like you have pushed yourself too, as far as you thought you could go. And then a little bit farther. Is that a driving motivation in your work or is that just something that just like your, your dreams take you to the limits of what your physical capabilities do?
[00:41:08] Romy Owens: It’s interesting how. As with each project, how age factors into my endurance or my stamina in terms of physical, pushing myself to a limit, or even mentally pushing myself to a limit. Like what I am capable of now, uh, requires some, a little more boundary in terms of what my body will actually do.
Um, my sister though, pointed something out to me over Christmas that you think that maybe I would have noticed this before about myself and I never had, I don’t sit still well. Like I don’t. I always have to be doing something like I’m able to do this because it’s conversation and I’m actively engaged.
I think that that is it, but if I were alone or at home like I’m, my hands have to be busy. I’m either physically making something or I’m on the computer doing something like I don’t do well with idle time. I don’t do well with sitting still. I don’t like just vegging out and turning my brain off. I do, I do for like the last 30 minutes of the day before I’m going to bed as an unwinding measure, but I’m going, if I’m awake, I’m going, like I’m working within 30 minutes of waking up because I just don’t sit still.
And the voices in my head are really giving me a hard time when I’m not working.
[00:42:40] Marissa Raglin: I want to know. I’ve seen your work in so many different media throughout the years. You’ve mentioned your degree in photography. I’ve seen your work in fiber. I’ve seen the large-scale, public art. Do you have favorite media and what?
[00:42:57] Romy Owens: It’s such a good question. And I have worked in lots of media and then their media that I haven’t even touched. My favorite media has to involve the materials that are associated with women’s work. So the knitting and the sewing, the thread, the yarn, these fiber materials. They, they still fascinate me and I, I don’t even know what, what I could or what I would do, but I want to continue to explore how to push the boundaries of what I can do with those, those things to scale up.
Or I don’t, I don’t want to scale down that’s for sure. There are people who make beautiful, miniature work. I don’t even know why I would try and get into that arena. The learning curve on it would take forever. Um, but yeah, it’s, it’s the fiber, it’s all the fiber art. I still love photography. Of course, what’s embarrassing is I haven’t even picked up a camera in five years.
My camera, when I moved to Enid is in the same spot collecting dust as it has been since I moved there, which is in a little embarrassing. Yeah. I also think a little bit of that is determined by the fact that I don’t see what it is that I would photograph there. Like I haven’t found that yet in my personal photographic journey in terms of what I’ve captured images of before they aren’t there. If that makes sense. That’s just part of it. Um, I have for Sugar High pushed some media boundaries, like I’ve learned some new skills just for Sugar High. Uh, I don’t know if those will translate long-term um, but installation, I love installation art as well. I love the idea of taking a whole bunch of stuff and it has to be put together in a certain way to tell a story of a space.
[00:45:05] Marissa Raglin: I know I want to talk about your Off The Wall work that you just had, you just have an opening for it, Oklahoma contemporary, but something just popped in my mind that maybe I’ll, I’m chasing a rabbit trail. We’ll see. So a lot of times our group at the Intentionalist, we have talked about this one phrase and it’s, we’re out to pasture.
And throughout the years of knowing one, another one or more of us at a time isn’t active in our creative process. Um, and in our creative practice.
[00:45:36] Josh Vaughn: Rather I’d say creative production.
[00:45:39] Marissa Raglin: Yeah. So not actively producing, but, but Heather Clark Hilliard shared that rather than viewing that as unsuccessful, she views it as that she’s out to pasture.
So she’s ruminating on the next thing you were just sharing about, you know, always working on something. I’m curious. Do you, do you feel that urge to create and that keeps the production going or are there times of idleness?
[00:46:11] Romy Owens: I have not had any times of, of idleness where I took more than say two weeks between finishing, finishing one thing and starting another, not even because it’s like next best idea, but more like, I can’t sit still.
[00:46:30] Marissa Raglin: I love that!
[00:46:30] Romy Owens: I probably should be tested for ADHD or something, but it’s working. So I don’t know. I don’t know that I need to correct it onto the next right.
[00:46:40] Josh Vaughn: Just don’t stop.
[00:46:44] Romy Owens: I think the most recent experience with concluding the Wing when it ended and we had the ribbon cutting we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
There’s not anything to do. Like I’m not going anywhere. I’m not traveling. I’m not, no one’s coming to Enid. Like it’s like this weird. We all experienced that lull of like ma barely want to leave my house. Right. So many people were like, take a break, take a break this time, you can take a break, take a break, take a break.
I did take a break for two weeks and I made puzzles. I made 10 puzzles. Like this is how not sit still. I am. It was like, okay, I can take a break. I went and bought a bunch of puzzles and that’s what I did all day long for two weeks. And I made 10,000 piece puzzles and like, and then I was like, okay, I’m ready to do something else now.
And I started making the mandalas.
[00:47:43] Marissa Raglin: Okay.
[00:47:44] Josh Vaughn: What’s your, some of my favorites that, of your work that you do. And I think they’re very beautiful when they’re very. I don’t know. They’re just kind of like the draw you in just like I can, I live here for a little while. I just want to take a nap.
[00:47:56] Romy Owens: They’re they’re very comforting and they were very comforting and that’s why I made them.
I didn’t, I didn’t have some grand idea that like, oh, now I’m going to explore the mandala. I had been working on thread work and the kind of the breaks when I couldn’t be doing anything on the wing cause there’s weather or there’s bureaucracy or there’s whatever equipment issues, whatever obstacle was slowing that process down.
I’d been working on these small thread pieces, just kind of experimenting, literally. Like what if, what if, what happens if I do this? What happens if I do this and made no, maybe a half, a dozen or dozen of those. And then whenever I finished the puzzles, I think the mandalas really struck at the heart of wanting to create that form.
That is the most inclusive and the most comforting. And I mean, that circle is round. It has no end that’s how long I want to be your friend kind of mentality of like, I want to do some things with circles because that form is so lovely to me. And it’s so comforting and it encompasses, it’s just everything.
I’m just saying words that we all know any creative who’s listening to. This is like , duh, we all know that, but no,
[00:49:20] Josh Vaughn: I think it’s no, I think it’s, I think you S you assume that a lot of things that you’ve gathered as experiences over over your, your career that everybody just automatically knows and understands.
And a lot of them don’t, I mean, I don’t. Some of these things I’m like, oh wow, I didn’t ever see it that way or like that. And so I think it’s, I think it’s important to share your process to your thinking process even. Of course, it’s mundane to you because you’ve been with that all your life.
[00:49:51] Romy Owens: It’s in my brain that’s been like, oh, everybody’s got to know this, right?
Like, I didn’t invent this.
[00:49:56] Josh Vaughn: It’s responsible for you being successful as an artist as you’ve been, so.
[00:50:02] Romy Owens: Well, thank you. I hope the mandalas were, we’re a form of art therapy. I mean, I had, no, it wasn’t, they weren’t made with intention. They weren’t made with anything past how to keep my hands busy, how to keep my brain quiet, uh, and how to heal.
How to heal and repetitive that repetitive process. Like I love repetition, of course, repetitions at the heart of almost everything. I do love repetition. Um, after I made the first one, I was like, well, fuck, I have to, I got to see what, like talk about chasing a rabbit down the trail. I had to see where it went.
And between November mid, November of 2020 and March of 2021, I made close to 125 mandalas.
[00:50:56] Josh Vaughn: Wow.
[00:50:57] Romy Owens: Yeah.
[00:50:58] Josh Vaughn: And what are the, what’s the average size?
[00:51:01] Romy Owens: That is such, such a great question. No, they’re very limited. The largest is 12 by 12. Um, and that is only because of the technologies that I have. That I, like I know they’re very labor intensive.
Um, and at the point at which I go larger than 12 by 12, I really would need to be working on panels with nails. And what I like about working on paper with it is one very few people do that and that it doesn’t have hardware. There’s no hardware on it. And if I, if I took it to a panel and put it on nails, it’s like, well, we’ve all seen that.
Like, everybody has seen that a million times because that’s how mandalas are oftentimes presented. And they’re beautiful. They are beautiful. I like working on nails. Large-scale. But I really loved the intimacy of how small they are and how easily I can control them when they’re smaller.
[00:51:51] Josh Vaughn: I like at something that may have, and when you spoke, like we were talking about how comforting they are at the same time, they’re just, they look like they could just tear apart.
They’re fragile, they’re temporary. They’re something that I think that a lot of people that like them pick up on it was like, oh, this is something precious. This is something that need to stop and look at and enjoy because it’s, it could just be gone.
[00:52:18] Romy Owens: Yeah, they are. They’re fragile for sure. Um, I love that, that idea.
And it makes me think of something that a professor told me when I was in grad school with photography about. And working with photography, how to determine what size to make a print, because obviously in photography, we can produce it whatever size our paper is, so we can end there can be multiples of it.
So, um, and, and those sizes that we’re so familiar with, it’s so easy to, um, look past because we’re so familiar with that format. And so he talked very specifically about the precious little jewel like the photography that is tiny, tiny, that really you have to lean into it to see it. And I do like that.
And so I suppose to some extent, I have this body of work, this small scale, tiny, like you have to get close to it, to notice the detail to appreciate the intricacies of it, or it’s just beyond measured oversize. Look at me.
[00:53:25] Marissa Raglin: I have one of your photography pieces. I think I got it from OVAC’s 12 X 12 and it caused, you know, calls me to lean in and look at it.
There’s like a circle it’s through, uh, a doorway. And then I’m looking into some sort of wallpaper, or
[00:53:42] Romy Owens: You have one of the blue it’s like digital image imagery.
[00:53:45] Marissa Raglin: Yes.
[00:53:46] Romy Owens: So that was from an elevator, um, in a New York city hotel that had video art in their elevator. And every time we’d go up and down, the video moves with elevator like the scene of the video. It was so cool. And we’d get in the elevator. I’m sure Rob was just like, what are you doing? I’m taking pictures of it at these different, like junctures, because it was constantly shifting and changing. So you never got to see the same thing once. And, and then I’m using a filter on my phone that distorted the image and made it into something different.
But that’s what, I can’t remember the name of the hotel, but I can tell you what neighborhood it was in New York that’s the best I can do well. And then I say that and I’m like, oh no, I can’t. It was near the High Line.
[00:54:33] Marissa Raglin: Okay.
[00:54:34] Romy Owens: Yeah.
[00:54:35] Marissa Raglin: I’ll track it down.
[00:54:35] Romy Owens: It was, it was a fancy hotel.
[00:54:37] Josh Vaughn: Share with us now, your newest exhibition at Oklahoma Contemporary called Off the Wall. What is it about?
[00:54:44] Romy Owens: Um, Pablo Berrera, who is the curator at Oklahoma Contemporary invited me and Sarah Ahmad and Marium Rana. And the three of us were each allocated a specific area of the third, fourth floor gallery at Oklahoma contemporary and kind of challenged with like, okay, you’re working off the wall.
What does this look like for you and Marium and Sarah both had existing work that they reconfigured in different ways, or like Marium had three panels that a fourth one was introduced to it and they were presented differently than they had ever been before. And Sarah took multiple pieces and refragmented and reconstructed and made this amazing piece.
Um, and when Pablo asked me to do it and presented me with this corner. And he was like, what I, what I, what I’m asking you and what I appreciate appreciate about what you do is how you respond to architecture and how you will look at this corner of the gallery and that this corner itself will inform what you do.
So pre pandemic in 2020, I had been in the latest Concept show for OVAC in Tulsa and had presented a piece on the wall with nails and thread and like 20 miles of thread passing back and forth. And I presented this pink rounded kind of voluptuous cloudburst on the wall with a pair of scissors, for people to cut and they did, and it was awesome.
Um, at Oklahoma Contemporary it’s a little bit of a different, like, they don’t want to present the work with scissors. They don’t want people cutting it on the first day. It’s gotta be up through June, I mean.
[00:56:37] Marissa Raglin: Right.
[00:56:37] Romy Owens: Give people something to come and see, but it will be presented with scissors at the final Thursday.
Um, because I think that that, that. It’s it’s something. I mean, here’s why I want to do this. Like in working with nails and thread on a wall, in a gallery, you know, it’s temporary. That’s not going to last forever. I mean, not only is it not going to last forever because people would destroy it if it was up there forever, but there’s another show coming.
This is coming down, it’s gonna get cut. And I have cut enough of them at this point that I know that there’s something really interesting that happens there. And I don’t think that that’s an experience that I need to keep just to myself. Like I have this private experience with my artwork. It’s destroyed.
Like that’s not it at all. It’s like, no, it’s kind of cool. And I think people would enjoy watching it. So we are going to do that. Um, the space that I’m in for Off The Wall is a very challenging space. It is architecturally a challenging space. There’s a column in the middle of a wall that cuts the wall in half put spaces on both sides and bumps out away from the wall.
And then there’s a cut-in like, there’s this cavern in one wall that cuts the wall in half and it makes this unusable, the top half of the wall is completely unusable and not even weight-bearing that anybody could even try to do something with it. So there’s just a big hole in the middle of the wall that is going to be there, that every artist is going to have to contend with.
And then it’s also right next to the catering kitchen that has a key code with a thing that’s by the wall. So every rendering I’d send, finally, Pablo was like, you’re going to have to adjust this line for this key card thing. And I’m like, are you fucking kidding me? He, I did not say that he was so great to work with.
And he was so patient with me with my, like, challenging, challenging corner. I think I did a good job though with it. I’m really proud of what I mean. I like, I gave an artist talk last week with Sarah and with Marium at Oklahoma Contemporary. And I was able to talk about kind of what the thread meant to me in the context of this space, which is way more science fiction than it is mandala or, um, impermanence.
It’s like, no, let’s think about like what this thread is doing in this space, because there’s a hole in the wall. There’s a hole in the wall! What if this thread is what’s keeping this hole sutured together. And if the thread weren’t there, it would just even expand out further. Or what if the converse is true and this thread is what’s forcing the hole to even open.
Like if this thread weren’t here, maybe it would be a solid wall, but here I’ve created this portal into, I don’t know. It’s kind of interesting to think about it that way, because it’s a very, very unusual space.
[00:59:34] Marissa Raglin: I saw your work that this was based off of at the concept show Tulsa. And I remember the dainty scissors, like they’re near and my nieces were with me.
Um, and as I approached the work of art with the scissors, I could feel the air go out of the room. And I was like, does she want me to cut? Or does she, is she videoing me cutting. It is. Is this a response? Like, am I not supposed to cut it? And then like me? So I was like, you should cut it.
[01:00:14] Romy Owens: Here’s the little voice on your shoulder.
[01:00:17] Marissa Raglin: So this like eight year old just leaned in and was like kind of tiny little thread up. And then I felt super guilty about it.
[01:00:27] Romy Owens: The people who’ve told me that they felt guilty about cutting it and it’s like, well, but I did present it with scissors. Yeah, it was a dare.
[01:00:35] Marissa Raglin: I mean, and it was very satisfying.
[01:00:37] Romy Owens: It’s very satisfying.
[01:00:39] Marissa Raglin: The spring of the thread exactly. Fall against the wall. The shadows form totally changed.
[01:00:47] Romy Owens: What surprised me about the concept show very genuinely was they were little dainty scissors. They were little sewing scissors that it was presented with. But what really surprised me is that nobody just went the distance with it.
I’ve just, I could not believe that nobody was just like
[01:01:05] Marissa Raglin: so glad they didn’t.
[01:01:06] Romy Owens: And they shared the destruction with everybody else. They left room for other people to participate, which was nice.
[01:01:12] Josh Vaughn: I feel like that would be part of it though. Is that like, you don’t want to, like, even if you enjoyed it, you want other people to have that interaction in the process.
[01:01:22] Marissa Raglin: Well, you mentioned earlier in the Elaborate Collaborate about erasing and did that really fit within the collaboration or, you know, it defined it further. I’ve seen a work by Hayley Prestifilippo it was that Momentum and it was, she provided a beautiful, detailed drawing and pencil and. It had several erasers there.
And before I got there, it was erased and I was like, dang.
[01:01:48] Romy Owens: It really draws home though. The significance of immediacy like that, you really kind of have to. If you’re, if you miss it, you miss you, then you missed it.
[01:01:58] Marissa Raglin: We would love to know what it means to you to cultivate community through creativity.
[01:02:05] Romy Owens: Oh, that’s such a big question.
What it means to me.
Oh man. Isn’t it really just that creativity allows for the license that anything is possible. And if you’re trying to foster community through maybe other methods, they’re more academic or they’re more rigid in their structure. Um, Where creativity. I mean, if you’re doing it under the, if you’re couching it in terms of creativity, it feels like that just opens up the possible.
Like there, there are no rules then. Like you can do it however you want. And as opposed to like the things that popped to mind in terms of how you try and quickly foster community would be Greek life on a college campus. And there certainly is creativity that goes into a rush week or into pledging or into hazing or into induction or into any of those ways in which those people become a community really fast.
There is creativity in it. There is a process, a very structured and defined process that has worn over years of a house doing the same thing over and over with just minor modifications, based upon whatever societal structure dictates at a time. Um, I mean, they don’t haze the way they used to. I’d like to think, but …
[01:03:52] Josh Vaughn: Hopefully.
[01:03:53] Romy Owens: Um, whereas if you’re, if you do couch it and creativity, it’s like, well, no, anything, anything.
As possible and structure is very comforting too. I think a great many people like people really do like to know what they’re getting into, what it’s going to like everything about it. People want to know there’s some freedom and just being like, I dunno, I dunno what it’s going to be. Well, let’s see.
Let’s just see, let’s discover this together.
[01:04:23] Josh Vaughn: Right? It’s the experiential process. That’s that leaves it… that leaves it open to w one accessibility to everybody is like, hopefully everybody can be a part of creativity because it’s inside you. It’s not something you have to go to school for or learn or whatever.
Uh, but it’s, you know, it’s, it’s all inclusive in the greatest sense.
[01:04:51] Romy Owens: Yeah. That isn’t, that just at creativity is assessable to everybody. Whether they know it or not, it’s the fear that prevents people from embracing it. Um, but it’s the fact that everybody’s a photographer. Everybody’s a writer. Everybody has the capacity to do these things.
It’s only through the practice and the, um, structure or the routine of becoming better that you become better. I mean, I wish I had a natural aptitude for lots of things, but I don’t have a natural aptitude for drawing or for painting. Like these are things that I’ve really, really have to work hard at because I’m not good at it.
[01:05:32] Josh Vaughn: I look at it like a muscle is, is there are some people who they’re able to create muscle mass faster. They have fast Twitch muscles or they have whatever, but if they don’t work out, you have a potential inside of you to make yourself better and to exercise. That for me, the big thing was, is knowing that that was possible.
I grew up in a, like creative poor community, you know, we didn’t know that there were these options. And so after I was exercising them, but I didn’t know I was, I was just doing what was innate to me. Um, but I think. If people understand that that creativity is like, just start creating, you’ll become more creative.
[01:06:11] Romy Owens: It’s true. It is. It’s totally true. And I think, I want to believe at least the younger generation, these generations that are coming up, um, probably millennial Z and whatever is after Z. Have they named that generation?
[01:06:28] Josh Vaughn: And I’m too old to know what the newest generation is so…
[01:06:32] Romy Owens: It’s probably generation Tik, TOK
[01:06:35] Josh Vaughn: Generation, not me.
[01:06:38] Romy Owens: I think that they, by the nature of what they’re being exposed to constantly between, uh, video content online, photography, that is, I mean, even amateur photographers, putting out really good content on Instagram. Or things like Tik TOK or the media that we’re seeing now that’s being produced is going to force a more creative culture.
I mean, these kids are going to, they have exposure that none of us had and certainly none of our parents or grandparents or God when I think about my grandparents and think about what our lives are like now and how blown their minds would be. It just blows my mind even think about it.
[01:07:24] Josh Vaughn: Well, and I think mentioning that, I just thought about like, okay, this puts in a whole new perspective of like, of like what it must have been like for like a Van Gogh or something, because there’s literally no one in the world.
Well, maybe a couple that we know now that we’re similar, but he’s everybody, everything that he’s taking in is telling him, oh, you’re doing it wrong. And then he’s like, no, I’m still going to do it this way. You know? And, and several artists like that, it’s just that people, it blows me away that they did what they did. So.
[01:08:00] Marissa Raglin: Yeah. But then the success happens, you know, after they pass. So the idea to have this avenue of, to promote our work. And that’s what I’m saying.
[01:08:11] Josh Vaughn: Yeah.
[01:08:12] Romy Owens: I used to be an assistant for an artist Jason Hackenberth who lives in St. Petersburg now, but when he was in New York, he was creating large scale sculptures out of latex balloons that were ephemeral in nature and temporary, which is easily where everything is temporary comes from.
And one of the things that he would say over and over to people he met or to audiences or to me, or to people who were coming by while we were working in installing was the, his audience hasn’t even been born yet. And it’s kind of true for almost all artists. I mean, we, you know, like, I think we’re all kind of lucky to have ,uh, an audience of community, of friends, of art patrons of people who do appreciate. And I’m not saying that like I haven’t sold art or that I haven’t had success with it, but I think, and that’s also not say that I’m going to, that I have a legacy that will live on after my death it’s but it is true when you think about the art that is being produced, there are people who do appreciate it, but it does take that historical long view to look and, and kind of recognize like, oh no, they were kind of doing something really like even more bad-ass than they knew at the time. And what this led to in terms of either the evolution of philosophy or the evolution of art or the evolution of society, like whatever it is, you have to have historical perspective to be able to appreciate it.
[01:09:44] Josh Vaughn: Definitely. Name, a few of your biggest inspirations. Who has had a part in making you who you are today?
[01:09:54] Romy Owens: Too many people have had a part in making me who I am today, for me to even begin to name everyone. And at the point at which I would even start naming people, I’m inevitably going to leave…
[01:10:07] Josh Vaughn: No, that’s fair.
[01:10:08] Romy Owens: …some people out, which makes me sad only in the sense that I think that most of those people know who they are and know that they have had an impact, because I feel like I’m pretty good at being generous about like, no, I’m so grateful.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I mean, no one would be surprised that I would say Kelsey Karper, probably the single biggest impact on everything that I have done and probably everything that I will do.
[01:10:41] Josh Vaughn: Cool.
[01:10:42] Romy Owens: Um, I feel lucky that I had time with her as a creative partner.
I would love the opportunity to have that with her again, because I think that we worked really well together and had a really symbiotic relationship in terms of making and curating and rent like everything. Yup. Hands on her. And I know that anybody else who’s like, what about me? You all know, you all know, and you also know why I would single out Kelsey.
So if I take a bigger view, a bigger, inspirational view and not think about the people who have directly impacted me or my career or the way I, in which I do things. And I look just to art, there are three artists that come to mind immediately, and I’m not going to say any of their names properly, which is embarrassing.
One is Olafur Eliasson, sin, Eliason, Leah son. He is from Norway or Finland or Denmark. He’s from one of the Scandinavian countries. So take that name, Eliason, Aliason and do with it what you will.
[01:11:58] Josh Vaughn: Check our show notes though.
He’s a super, super famous, super famous artist. And I didn’t even know who he was, uh, at all.
Like I’d never even heard his name. I didn’t know anything about him. I was in New York in 2008 with my friend Maris Deering and we were at the MoMA and we were riding up the escalator and I was standing in a way that as we were going up, I was facing her and she was below me. So I’m going backwards and she is going forward.
And the escalator is packed. I mean, there are people behind me. There are people behind her. We’re all moving up this escalator into the second floor, kind of foyer area. And as we’re ascending the escalator Maris face. Like the look on her face was jarring until I realized that what she was looking at me now, I am looking at her and we are both devoid of color.
Everything is black and white. Everything is black and white. We went from being in full color to black and white because Olafur Eliasson had installed his yellow light room. Oh yes. And it affects your cones and rods. And so everything’s kind of caught a little bit of a yellow, but really, I mean, it is like black and white people in a yellow room.
It was so wild and just blew my mind because no, I didn’t know. Did you know? Like, who knows that this was one thing that could have happened and, and now he’s doing it and we’re everybody here. We’re all having this experience together where our minds are being blown and we’re like looking at our own skin and our clothes in each other and around us.
And it’s just what? I was lucky enough to see that a second time in Chicago. Um, and then studying his work and seeing what he’s done. It’s just like huge inspiration. I know I’ll never in a million years achieve that level of success. He blows my mind. And if any of your listeners have not watched the episode, season two episode one of Abstract.
[01:14:10] Josh Vaughn: Yeah. I was just about to mention that.
[01:14:13] Romy Owens: In the beginning where he’s like, let’s do this together and he’s putting these color cards up to the camera, like, okay, imagine this. I don’t. He is the kind of artist that has a factory of workers. Like he’s, he is not, he is not an individual at this point. He is a mega artist.
He’s an entity, but he definitely is a huge inspiration for me. I look at that and I’m just like, yeah, anything’s possible. He filled the room with yellow and made it art. And it was art and it was an experience. And it was such an experience that I wish I knew who the other people that were in the room that we could keep in touch about this pivotal moment.
It was, it was really significant.
[01:14:56] Josh Vaughn: That is really cool.
[01:14:57] Romy Owens: Janet Eckelman is another, I think it’s Eckelman it may be Eshelman. That’s it that’s one where it’s like, that’s embarrassing that I don’t know. She says she has a Ted talk worth looking at and she pronounces her name properly. So that’s, there’s one person.
She is artists that makes the large scale of rope installations that are in cityscapes, where they hang and float and move in the breeze. And they’re lit. She came to that. She was a painter and she was doing a residency on an island and her paints pies didn’t arrive. And she had an obligation to the residency to produce a body of work, but not of her supplies are there and she’s on a remote island and there’s no paint, there’s no store.
And she made a sculpture out of rope and that totally led her in it. Like she went from being a painter to a full-time fiber artists, working large scale with rope. Her work is beautiful and absolutely riveting and. I have no idea how, how she does it, but again, teams, teams of artists.
And then the third is Gabriel Dawe.
He is a Dallas-based artists. Um, he does thread sculptures. He, he is leading the pack in terms of beautiful prismatic, very elegant room size architectural made out of sewing thread and I’ve studied his work and have been lucky enough to see it in person several times. And I’m a great admirer and really appreciate what he does.
He definitely is an inspiration. As much as I want to emulate everything he does. I also don’t want to even go close to it because what he does is so beautiful and is of his own voice. And I, and it helps me to think about how to do similar work in a similar style without even coming close to what he’s doing so that I don’t mind a comparison. Of course, I am inspired by him. I would be lying if I said I’ve never heard of him. I have I’m paying close attention. But so that I can have my own language with it and not be like, oh, this is what Gabriel did. So I’m just modifying his design. I’m trying to do my own thing with it, but his work’s amazing.
[01:17:14] Josh Vaughn: We’d like to think Romi for sharing her time with us. You can see more of Romy’s work at romeowens.com. We’d also recommend that you take a trip to Enid, Oklahoma, to enjoy the Enid Wing and experience the unveiling of Sugar High and immersive interactive art installation. You can also follow along with her on Instagram at @theromyowens. Find this information and other links mentioned in this podcast, in our show notes for this episode at our website, www.rallyokc.com
[01:17:40] Marissa Raglin: And of course, we want to thank our audience for listening. Please like subscribe and share this podcast, if you enjoyed it. You can follow us along on Instagram at @rally.up.okc. We’ll be joining you again soon.