A Mystical Menagerie


  • Kasum Contemporary Fine Art 1706 Northwest 16th Street Oklahoma City, OK, 73106 United States

September 12, 2014 marked the one year anniversary of Kasum Contemporary Fine Art’s opening in the Plaza District of Oklahoma City, and October 4th 2015 will mark start of their new exhibit season. “When my wife and I opened Kasum we knew, that in many respects, we would be building a foundation on creativity, whimsy, fantasy and big dreams.” said Tony Morton, Director, Kasum Contemporary Fine Art. “We wanted our season debut to pay tribute to imagination; and there may be no greater extension to imagination than fantasy. We are pleased to be opening our 2015-2016 exhibit season by presenting the far reaching creative works from three phantasmagorical artists in two very unique features.” 

The exhibit “A Mystical Menagerie”, featuring new works by gallery artists Diana J. Smith and Katie O’Sullivan will open on October 4th and run through November 15th. The artists featured in the Menagerie approach fantasy through vastly different methods but the resulting content of their efforts play a perfect marriage in the realm of whimsy. 

Diana J. Smith has been producing paintings here in Oklahoma City for many years. She is known for her range of work in often expressive animal focused acrylics on canvas. She is not known for her work in sculpture but Morton suggests that she will be soon. “Diana’s new hand built clay figures are Canterbrian in many ways. They merge our own, very relative, character traits into a fantasy world of unfinished stories,” said Morton, “A place where we can pick up the pen and author our own world. It’s a place of impossibilities made possible.” 

Over the last year Diana has formed, finished and fired a world of wizards. Each one is the creation of a new species clothed in the Celtic robes that reflect the artist’s heritage and topped with a proper wizarding hat. The wizards are formed by hand and as Diana sculpts the characters come into their own. She fires on decals, of her own design, paints fabric-like patterns with under-glazes and then applies multiple stains to achieve their antique appearance. To complete their persona, some are adorned with wire, leather, fur, gemstones, beads and other charms.

Curious, wise and possessing magical powers, the wizards exude a contagious sense of spirit that will be recognizable to any who have sought wisdom, come to the aid of another or found themselves skeptical of an unknown. They are in every effect an extension of us all. Each piece comes with its own hand bound and stitched journal, a miniature version of the full scale Wizards Journal Exalted Tome of Quests which will also be on display and for sale. The one-of-a-kind art book, which was also created by Smith, contains excerpts from the journal entries of questing wizards and will allow readers to peer ever deeper into each character.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Diana attended the University of Oklahoma where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in painting. Her intense interest in masks led her into additional studies in anthropology. Diana has exhibited in numerous juried, group, and solo shows and has won awards for her paintings, masks and mixed media figures.

New gallery artist Katie O’Sullivan’s approach to whimsy is the result of the artist’s breaking down her creative method in an attempt to discover something in a field of nothing. After graduating with a BFA from Parsons School of Design in New York City, Katie moved to south Florida where she continued her art education, taking classes and workshops whenever she could. Her thirst to learn new media and techniques, and her desire to improve upon those she learned never quenched. The result of such extensive training was refined technical skill.

Two years ago, in an attempt to rediscover her creativity, O’Sullivan approached her work alla’prima; without preconceived notion. The artist laid down an abstract field of color, mark-making, crude symbols and subjective components on canvas then began to work deductively by finding fantasy figures in an abstract field and painting over the non-subjective components to create portraits and narrative scenes. 

“Katie’s compositions are an aggressively balanced combination of drawing media and acrylics on canvas.” said Morton, “They take on aspects of noted neo-expressionist and primitivist movements, inspired by creatives like Jean-Michel Basquiat, but the dichotomies they deliver are rooted in pure imagination.” The figures in O’Sullivan’s paintings are anamorphic; often merging species in animalistic postures that dilute the human component to a point of subtlety. The boldly earthy depictions are filled with underlying forms, faces, and eyes that add a feature of surreal mysticism. 

Kasum Contemporary Fine Art’s eclectic consortium of gallery artists are defined by their provocatively bold artworks which challenge the observer as much as the artist; be it through technique, concept, emotion or the sheer deafening volume of compassion behind the work. It is the gallery’s philosophy that while anyone can create art, artists are rare; true artistry exists in the conception, the delivery and the drive to exceed the expected in all capacities. Focusing on progressive examples of contemporary fine art, the gallery represents established, mid-career and emerging artists of exceptional caliber.

The gallery features exhibit receptions, lectures, demonstrations, pop-up exhibits, interactive installations, special performance events and seasonal patron events. The establishment is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30am – 7:30pm, Friday from 11:30am – 8:30pm, Saturday from 11:30am – 7:30pm and Sunday from 1:00pm – 5:00pm. Kasum Contemporary Fine Art is located at 1706 NW 16th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73106 and can be reached by calling 405.604.6602. You can also visit the gallery on the web at www.KasumContemporary.com.