Sensory Iconoclasts

Sensory Iconoclasts

In fifth year, ACO art event tackles pay inequality


When Eve Smith, artist and Arts Center of the Ozarks director of exhibitions and public programs, and noted area chef Case Dighero teamed up years ago for a project for the Wednesdays Over Water event at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, they sensed a certain magic in the pairing. Inspired by the experience, the two put their heads together and came up with Sensory Iconoclasts.

“We pair people together — a chef and an artist of any medium — and they create a culinary piece and a piece of art that’s based on that year’s theme,” Smith explains. “The main thread through it all that I have discovered is that it creates an ongoing narrative of the spirit of collaboration. When these two people get together and collaborate, they find that we all kind of work in these silos. Especially artists. And it’s just this awareness, this awakening that happens, and the artist goes forward, either collaborating again with that one person, or they start collaborating with other people, too.”

The theme of this year’s event — the fifth in its history — asks artists and chefs to ruminate on the subject of equal pay for women and minorities. Participating artists include Smith and Dighero, Emily Smith and Shayla Holder, Kat Wilson and Emily Lawson, Houston Hughes and KJ Zumwalt, and Amber Perrodin and Dan Hintz.

Visual artist Kat Wilson, who has contributed to the event since the beginning, says this year’s theme dovetailed with a project that she had been conceptualizing for a while: “Warrior Women.” The idea was born out of a difficult conversation with a male photographer who, in the course of inviting Wilson to participate in a show, was callously ranking the women photographers in the area.

“I was already down,” she confesses. “Art is so hard; it’s so personal. I got off the phone, and I thought, ‘Why did he say that to me?’ And then, lo and behold, Kody Ford calls and asks me to curate the upcoming [Idle Class] photo issue. I curated a beautiful spread. I thought, ‘I’m going to go ahead and say I’m the goddess of photography, and I’m going to put a [breast] out just to remind him I’m a woman, and I’ve had to work hard for everything I have.”

The result was a powerful, majestic photograph of Wilson, glowing as though lit from within, and styled, by artist Trisha Guting, to elicit a tone both ancient and contemporary: Her pose and clothing bring to mind an indigenous female warrior while a camera, Wilson’s weapon of choice, sits atop her staff.

“Everyone loved it, and they didn’t even know the story,” says Wilson of the photograph. She was encouraged to move forward with the idea. “I talked to my friends and said, ‘What if I chose a time in a woman’s life when she had to work really hard, she had to get her warrior out for something that is happening in her life?’” Collaborating with Guting, says Wilson, was key to expanding the idea. “She said, ‘We need to use relevant women of now.’ So my next person is Stephanie King.”

King and Wilson were schoolmates at Southside High School in Fort Smith in the 1990s.

“She is a warrior,” says Wilson. “She was a lesbian at Southside, when I went there. But I could hide being gay, so I didn’t get bullied. She didn’t hide it, and she got bullied. She was super into ‘Tank Girl’ and Drew Barrymore and ’90s plaid and chokers, so we took those things that helped her through that period and created her warrior woman. She’s beautiful and tough and masculine and feminine, too.”

Wilson is partnering with her wife, Pink House Alchemy’s Emily Lawson, for this year’s Sensory Iconoclasts.

“She’s going to make an elixir to help women boost their power,” says Wilson. “With a lot of vitamins and energy boosters — so we’re ready to fight.”

The work of Wilson and Lawson — as well as the other participating artists — will be on display for the ACO reception on Sept. 6, and in the ACO art gallery from Aug. 28 until Sept. 28.



Sensory Iconoclasts

WHEN — 7 p.m. Sept. 6 reception; artwork on show Aug. 28 to Sept. 28

WHERE — Arts Center of the Ozarks, 214 S. Main St., Springdale

COST — Free

INFO — 751-5441

Categories: Cover Story