Meet Oklahoma City native Trent Lawson — a 33-year-old preparator at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art by day and an emerging artist with a flair for the unusual by night. His works are a unique concoction of pulp cinema, 80s nostalgia, art history, consumer culture and a smidge of irreverence all splashed across a canvas of velvet.
An Oklahoma City University student who received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2002, Lawson began his artistic endeavors in a more conventional way. However, his direction changed drastically in January 2010 when AKA Gallery, in conjunction with deadCENTER Film Festival, decided to have a velvet show. “At the time I was doing work that was drastically different and thought, ‘I’m an artist, I need to paint on velvet at least once’,” he recalls. “Turns out I have a knack for painting on velvet that I never knew. I did two pieces for that show, ‘Dogs Playing Mah Jongg‘ and a piece with Telly Savalas saying ‘Feel The Velvet, Baby’. Both were a hit! I put that experience in my pocket and about six months later, needing a break from the series of works I’d been doing for about ten years, I decided to play around with velvet painting to see where that led me. It’s going on three years now and that’s all I’ve been doing and I’m still having fun.”
Not only is Lawson having fun, he’s also beginning to amass some buzz in Oklahoma’s revitalized art community. His most recent and arguably biggest accomplishment to date came at the 2012 Festival of the Arts when he was invited to participate in the South Hudson Pro-Am Exhibition. Jane Jenkins, the President of Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc., commissioned a work that would celebrate Oklahoma City. After batting around some ideas, Lawson responded with a piece dubbed by himself and Jenkins as Rumble Kong, which depicts Oklahoma City Thunder mascot, Rumble, standing on top of the newly completed Devon Tower King Kong-style with bi-planes flying around him. “Not every painting is a home run but that one knocked it out of the park!” said Lawson. “Being attached to the arts festival, the exposure, and hearing everyone’s reaction to it was pretty great.”
While that accomplishment may be Lawson’s most prestigious, he still has some other pretty impressive bragging rights. In 2007, he participated in a show titled Heroes & Outlaws to commemorate Oklahoma’s centennial. The City Arts Center invited Lawson (and ninety-nine other artists) to depict a famous or well-known Oklahoman. As a child of the 80s and a fan of the movie Firewalker, it seemed only natural for him to choose Ryan, OK native, Chuck Norris. The piece titled The Quickest Way to a Man’s Heart is with Chuck Norris’s Fist turned out to be a huge hit, and Chuck Norris’ wife, Gena O’Kelley, bought the painting as a Christmas gift for Norris that year.
While he may never be able to surpass the number of cool points that having his art in Chuck Norris’ home has afforded him, the future is very bright for this young artist who had his first solo show of velvet paintings in May at AKA Gallery.
As a painter who defines an artist as “someone who gets an idea and has the audacity to actually do it,” Lawson appreciates art in every form and encourages anyone who enjoys creating to keep on doing it. “With the new interest and renaissance that Oklahoma is now enjoying, there are more opportunities than ever before to show your art. There are tons of arts events going on every week around the metro — Paseo, Plaza District, Film Row District, Shakespeare in the Park, OKC Improv. And that’s just the ones I volunteer with. For those looking for support, check out OVAC, the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition. Their mission is to support visual artists in Oklahoma.”
Selected work from Lawson is currently on display at Twisted Root in the Paseo Arts District and available for purchase.
You may contact Lawson and view his full gallery via his website TrentLawson.net.
This column was originally published in June 28, 2013 edition of The Tribune.