ART 365 PREVIEW: Kelly Rogers by Karen Paul
All images are work in progress from the mural Tales of Whoa, unprimed, raw, cotton canvas, black embroidery thread.
Themes of trauma, strength, and intimacy are sewn into the work of Oklahoma City artist Kelly Rogers, who has been selected for the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s triennial Art 365. “I applied for Art 365 as a dare to myself,” Rogers said. “My proposal was to create a hand-stitched mural, but I had not defined the specifics when I applied.” Rogers, who will be working with nationally-renowned curator Dana Turkovic, is creating a large mural entitled Tales of Woah, which will debut at the Art 365 exhibition in June 2017. Rogers’ mural is inspired through her work at HeartLine answering crisis calls and a personal childhood experience of trauma. “The calls that I answer are part of what has helped me be resilient,” Rogers said. “Our callers are amazing people. I’ve taken over 16,000 calls in my career and I feel so trusted with our callers’ lives, stories of
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trauma, and strength. Sometimes, they will even call back and say ‘thank you.’” Humbled by her callers’ strength, Rogers wants Tales of Woah to be an expression of human survival and a celebration of what makes the human experience amazing. “I want to make a statement that cannot be ignored,” she said. When completed, Rogers’ mural will consist of dozens of hand-stitched drawings of girls in typical childhood situations such as playing with friends. The embroidery is a critical part of the mural, representing a personal metaphor for healing. When Rogers’ husband suffered a major injury that left him unable to walk for six months, she became his primary caregiver and began to visually explore the concept of stitches. In Tales of Woah, she applies the healing metaphor of stitches to a subject that is influenced by the shocking statistic that one in three girls in Oklahoma County
has been sexually abused. When the piece is completed, one out of every three girls that have been stitched on the mural will be handpainted in full color, highlighting the trauma that one in three girls experience in life. “The condition of women and girls who experience trauma is unacceptable and lifealtering,” Rogers said. “I want the impact of their situation to be real.” Tales of Woah is also giving Rogers a place to share the trauma that she experienced as a young girl. “This work is giving me a place to tell a story that I have not been able to do so far in life,” she said. “This process has empowered me in a way that I would not have otherwise experienced.” Each girl in the mural is created individually from Rogers’ personal childhood photos with her sister, friends’ photos of their children, and stock photos. She is planning the visual density of the mural as she goes, giving the
Art Focus Oklahoma Winter 2017