For her “Infinite Oaks” project, Elliot launched “nOaks,” an augmented-reality app now available on the Apple App Store and Google Play for Android.
“It imagines reintroducing Cross Timber woodlands to specific GPS locations around central Oklahoma. So, you use the augmented reality art to access these virtual biomes, and you use your device at particular locations to change the landscape around you,” she said.
“I’m not a native Oklahoman. I moved here three years ago to join the faculty at OU, and I was just so surprised by the diversity and the beauty of the landscape. … We really are at the intersection — especially in the Cross Timbers — of plains and tallgrass prairie and the Eastern woodlands. So, it’s a really rich ecological region that hasn’t been protected, that we don’t have access to because of private property. … So, I was interested in maybe thinking about how we can we imagine shifting our value system to appreciate diversity.”
For his June project, Pressley sought to have “Connected Conversations” with people via video-conferencing software while creating sketches and taking notes for a series of portraits he is now creating.
“To me it was just an opportunity to kind of engage with people here in the community of Oklahoma City but also abroad and throughout the nation — just anybody that wanted to reach out and talk to me while I did their portrait. I kind of left the floor open so that they could talk about basically whatever they wanted to. It started off as a situation just to kind of allow individuals to talk about their pandemic experience,” he said. “Some of it did venture into more personal stuff; some of it did venture into some of the protesting and Black Lives Matter.”
One of the conversations was unplanned: In what he feels was a case of racial profiling, Pressley, who is black, was pulled over by a police officer one June night while leaving his part-time bartender job.
“The painting just evolved into a kind of sinister image of police officer, and I’m like, ‘that’s fine, because that was a conversation that I had.’ When he did pull me over, he thought I was upset and he felt he needed to conversate with me to let me know it’s not all black and white … it’s a whole mix of different emotions from both sides. Ultimately, I did feel in that instant — and this is just my personal instant — I had a conversation with him and I let him know that ‘I know why you pulled me over and I know I didn’t break the law in any form or capacity, so I’d just like to go home.’ And I got to go home, which is good,” Pressley said.
“It wasn’t really about what the paintings look like in the end. If I make the worst paintings I’ve ever made, that’s fine. … The project was always about the conversations.”