The Oklahoma Eagle Staff
The Oklahoma Eagle
Dawn Tree, speaking with attendees at her AMERICANA exhibition. By Ross D. Johnson
AMERICANA artist Dawn Tree’s recent exhibition, hosted by Vast Bank in the Historic Greenwood District throughout the month of June, closing July 7, possesses the depth, meaningful textures, and visual experience that only Tree can imagine and create. Inspired in 2017 by the spirit of Tulsa, OK and a deep reflection on America’s relationship with Black Wall Street, Tree began to create and evolve the Americana: Red, White & Blue theme. A Juneteenth Chat With The Artist event on June 16 offered the public an opportunity to learn more about the artist, her work, and reflections of how Black Americans are the thread tightly woven through the fabric of American culture. The myriad facets of the self-described abstract surrealist painter, graphic artist, author, storyteller, journalist, spoken word artist, educator, DJ (PinkyJoy) and owner of art studio Underground Tree Studios, were on full display this Summer evening.
Tree engaged event attendees throughout the evening, detailing the creative journey of each well-received work. Americana’s mixed media composition was built upon informally sourced wood, Tree’s signature drip paint abstract form and guided by her spirit. Of her work and form, she cited Jackson Pollock, “There is no accident, just as there is no beginning and no end”, reminding patrons of the natural and genuine beauty of abstract art.
“Panther Spirit”, the artist shared, was inspired “while watching a documentary I saw the panther on the baby blue background and that color just brought a softer peace to my soul.” The core palette of the work, like all that comprised the series, captured Tree’s sentiment regarding freedom, “a state of mind as true physical and financial freedom for African Americans can be limited compared to other Americans.”
“Black Gold” (2019), a depiction of the architecture that remains along the historic Greenwood and Archer avenues highlights the community and economic brilliance of the 1920s Black Wall Street era in gold. Tree, in the role of visual historian, added striking applications of red to border the avenues, representing the blood and lives lost during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
The St. Louis, Missouri native earned a BA in Journalism and minored in African Studies while attending the University of Oklahoma. The artist-in-residence and global exhibition feature has raised the credibility of each venue upon whose walls her work has been displayed. Ghana, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Oklahoma, and New Jersey are amongst the many countries, cities and states that have exhibited her work.
In Tree’s work, one may discover the conflict that exists between American ideals and the realities of Black communities. The creative’s visual artistry, reflected in Americana, may remind patrons of the late Sam Gilliam’s use of wood and applied materials in “Red Line” (1995), “On Yellow Wood” (2003) and “Chinese” (1993). Inspired by Pollack, both Gilliam and Tree moved about their canvases guided by a spirit that offers a brief glimpse of their soul’s engagement with the world around them.
Beyond the Vast Bank exhibition, Tree will continue to pursue opportunities to share the voice and soul of the Historic Greenwood District. For art patrons, the Americana experience is one of many that reinforces the need for diverse expressions by diverse creatives.