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Meet the fellows

In the studio with Heyd Fontenot

Tulsa Artist Fellow Heyd Fontenot

Destiny Jade Green

Meet the Fellows takes you inside the studios of the 2019 Tulsa Artist Fellowship recipients for a look at their life and work. Since 2015, Tulsa Artist Fellowship has recruited artists and arts workers to Tulsa, where they “have the freedom to pursue their craft while contributing to a thriving arts community.” For more information, visit tulsaartistfellowship.org.  

Can you tell us a little about your background and work? I’m a visual artist working with painting, drawings, installation of environments, to some degree sculpture, performance/staging and also film … I have mostly worked creative jobs through my life—in theater, advertising, film and television … The (latest) show is called “The Lodge of Saint Reborlaro,” and it’s thematically playing with the idea of fraternal lodges and secret societies. 

Can you talk about your history at the Tulsa Artist Fellowship and its impact on your work? I came to Tulsa in January of 2018 to be an artist fellow from another artists’ residency in San Antonio called ArtPace. People will often ask how a different location affects an artist’s work and ideas, and of course so many elements of our environment affect us. To be honest, it’s hard to get Tulsa’s violent history out of my head. Bits and pieces are regularly coming to light, and it’s devastating. Our studios and residencies for the fellowship are in the former Greenwood neighborhood, which was the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. So, as you can imagine, occupying this very specific space is profound. 

Your work features a lot of nudity and has often been described as queer. Why is it important to render and beautify queer bodies in today’s political climate? I consider it a political act to render nudes and to present a different perspective on the subject. I don’t feel that nudity is rare in our culture, but it is most commonly presented in a “sexualized” context … And then that shuts down any further processing about these awkward fleshy things that we all walk around within … We all have such difficult relationships with our bodies, oftentimes resentful or embarrassed about them. With these portraits, I try to get people to have a kinder relationship to themselves—to see themselves as beautiful as I see them. In terms of queerness … I think everyone and everything is queer. In a sense, something that insists on its “regularness” is hilariously queer.

Any future shows or projects on the horizon you’re excited to share? I’d like to take the idea of “The Lodge of Saint Reborlaro” a bit further and have it installed for a longer period of time, so that people become quite comfortable with the idea of being in a collaborative “free space.” … In a capitalist society such as this one, art often has to be justified by a product. The product is of premium importance and undermines the importance of what happens in the creative process. And while I’m providing prompts for activities and projects and interactions within the installation, I have to be patient and witness what actually occurs there. I don’t want to dictate too specifically what happens in the space—and it will be largely up to the participants that show up and ideas that they have and interpersonal connections they make. … I think it’s time we look at how the arts can actually foster community and be accessible and welcoming without pandering—and I think an excellent start is by listening and being present, open and generous.