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Frame And Facade


Over many millennia woodcarvers have illuminated and exposed to us the hidden story of wood. Over those centuries exceptional examples of masterworks in the medium have emerged from a handful of artists. Ron Fleming, a native Oklahoman, is a superb example of a master artisan working from the rooted medium. Fleming's woodwork can be found in many places including the White House Collection of American Craft, the Mint Museum of Craft and Design, the Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian Institution, the Racine Art Museum, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, and in Oklahoma City at Paseo Originals Art Gallery where he is featured in collaboration with Tulsa based mixed media artist Linda Stilley this May for the exhibit “Frame and Facade, A Collaboration”.


Fleming was raised on a hog and rabbit farm in central Oklahoma. It was in a closet at his high school that he discovered an old airbrush, asked his teacher what it was, and went on to become one of the nations top airbrush illustrators working for companies like Budwiser, Coors, Telex, ZEBCO, and RJ Reynolds. Ron's work in wood provided freedom and a permanent departure from his career in commercial art. His college education as a civil engineer provided him the necessary skills to devise the custom tools he uses to accommodate his visions, which can change with the turn of a lathe or the cut of a hand-held blade. As a child he watched his father and grandfather work in wood for many years. Through observation, learning, thinking and searching Ron found ways to express his passion for nature, it's beauty and passages. Woodworking seemed a natural way to combine his talents as an artist and craftsman. Fleming says, “Whether it be the falling leaves swirling into a frozen form or a single flower bud unfolding in spring, each piece gives me the opportunity to make a statement about the never ending rituals of nature.” In response to his design process Ron says, “As a designer and illustrator I always had to make a layout. The thought process has always been to sketch my thoughts or doodle them down on a sheet of tissue paper. It gives me the opportunity to modify it and look at all the alternatives available. The difficult part is deciding which points are stronger and which are the weaker. There are times when I have an image so strongly in my mind that I can skip all of the above and just make the piece.” It was thirty years ago that Fleming produced an airbrushed painting of a rose bud that would inspire him to recreate it in his first wood form. That piece still resides in Ron's personal collection, not for the piece itself which failed to follow his sketch, rather for the deep appreciation for the journey that it opened. Fleming's understanding of wood has grown with every new timber specimen he has experienced. While the artist favors domestic variates like redwood, elder, dogwood, ash or hackberry, he has also worked exotic species such as pink ivory, South African blackwood, and red acanthus. Several hundred pieces, representing tens of thousands of hours have emerged from Ron's countryside workshop over the last twenty plus years but it was not until five years ago he found reason to collaborate with another artist in order to bring his unique forms to fruition.


Linda Stilley, an award winning artist, taught for over thirty years in Tulsa and Japan. Linda's artistic style has been deeply influenced by her extensive travels throughout the exotic locals of Australia, New Zeland, Asia, Europe, South Africa, and the Americas. Stilley claims, “ My usual response regarding the meaning of my artwork is awkward silence. I have never been able to explain or find the precise words for the things I have been incubating for years. The theme of my work can reside solely in the mind of the viewer. I maintain that the most important meanings are left unsaid, and if said, narrow the interpretation and weaken the intention.” Linda fervently agrees with artist Antoni Tapies who denotes, “The truth we seek will never appear in a painting but will only appear behind the last door that the observer learns to open with his own strength.” In her work images of the cross, exes, and crossings of opposing lines and planes represent the fundamental symbols of the world, the harmony on man and woman and the equilibrium between the yin and yang found in many cultures. Hovering between the illusionary and the real Stilley's art is a form of magical mysterious truths represented through the repetition of passageways, colors and symbols. While the artist considers Tulsa, Oklahoma her home she still continues to travel abroad on a frequent basis. Stilley recently began using her already finely honed skills in working with an endless array of media, materials and chemical finishes by collaborating with internationally acclaimed wood artist Ron Fleming.


Fleming had been privileged to have seen Stilley's mixed media artworks in multiple exhibits throughout the region, quickly finding himself a fan of her works. Fleming adds, “I have always been intrigued by Linda's painting style and thought there should be a way for us to collaborate on a project. I turned and carved many forms which would provide her with three dimensional canvases.” When asked how he was able to let anyone paint on or embellish his wood work Ron responded, “It was easy; I just released it to her.” Stilley, articulating her further thoughts, says, “The forms he created, along with the wood he selected for his shapes, really spoke to me. Unlike Ron, I do not do sketches when I paint or embellish. The wood and its movement tell me what to do. I have always collected interesting stones and other small items, along with carrying a total love affair with gold and copper leaf, and the chemicals that produce patinas. The great thing about using all these media on wood is that if they didn’t work out I could always just have Ron sand them and - voila - I could start fresh! The only time I found a true commitment was when I wanted to inlay a stone or pierce the form to add metal. There were no do-overs on those decisions.”


The May 2012 exhibit at Paseo Originals Art Gallery, “Frame and Facade, A Collaboration” brings together over thirty collaborated forms, vessels and three dimensional wall hangings with a extensive selection of Stilley's mixed media creations and a sampling of Fleming's personal wood works; some in large scale. The unprecedented exhibit, which is free and open to the public, will run from May 3rd through May 28th providing Oklahoma City the first opportunity to see a world class collaboration between the two well established Oklahoma artists. There will be an opening reception held on Friday, May 4th from 6:00pm – 10:00pm during the Paseo First Friday Art Walk. The artists will be in attendance for the reception which will also offer live music, light hors d'oeuvres and libations by the evenings winery. On the following day, May the 5th at 3:00 pm, the artists will be giving a lecture on their history and process which will be followed by a Q&A. The “Frame and Facade” exhibit will culminate with a Cocktail Closing Reception to be held Saturday, May 26th from 6:30pm – 9:00pm. The art on exhibit for “Frame and Facade” represents thousands of hours of collaborative creation efforts between the two artists and individuals with an interest in visual creativity or art collection are highly encouraged to attend.

Frame And Facade

May 3 – May 28, 2012