50 States: Oklahoma (For Lynn)
30-minute two-channel video loop, two-way mirror film, wood, steel
Video shot by Andrew Schneider
Performances by Josie Lee Turrell, Nikkoda La’Vie, Carden Crow
Video portraits of Toby Jenkins, David Cornsilk, "Doc" Miller, Carolyn Wiley, Keetoowah Knight, and Mary & Sharon Bishop-Baldwin.
50 States: Oklahoma honors the gay Cherokee playwright Lynn Riggs who most famously wrote the 1930 play Green Grow the Lilacs on which Rogers and Hammerstein based their iconic musical Oklahoma!
Born in Claremore, Oklahoma in 1899 Riggs had a complicated and embattled relationship with his home state, living primarily in self-imposed exile in Santa Fe, New York, and Los Angeles where he was able to live, semi-closeted, with multiple lovers over the years. While Green Grow the Lilacs contains few hints of homoeroticism, many of his other plays feature overt queer themes. Riggs wrote that the characters in Green Grow the Lilacs were meant to convey the luminosity of the every-day lives of the people he knew as a child before Indian Territory became the State of Oklahoma.
In 1931 Riggs made an experimental film, A Day in Santa Fe in which he captured daily life in his adopted city. In response, Nick & Jake created an experimental documentary depicting a queer day in Northeastern Oklahoma. Following the exact shot structure of the original film, 50 States: Oklahoma (For Lynn) is comprised of original footage documenting scenes of daily queer life in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the seat of the Cherokee Nation; filmed video portraits of members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Tulsa and Tahlequah standing in front of locations of key importance to their identities; footage of the artists taking on the narrator role embodied by the mule delivering firewood in Riggs’ film; and found archival footage of Two-Spirit gatherings projected onto trees at Discoveryland, a deserted outdoor amphitheater in Sand Springs where Oklahoma! was performed for decades.
The video is projected through an arrangement of two-way mirrored panels which reference the gay Oklahoman architect Bruce Goff. In 1949, six years before he would be forced to resign from the University of Oklahoma for being homosexual, he proposed a spectacular Crystal Chapel of diamond-shaped glass panels for the University’s student religious center. Though the design was never realized, Frank Gehry later wrote that Goff’s chapel “would have been the purest, most elegant embodiment of the metal and glass Crystal Palace fantasies that captivated architects from the nineteenth century onward.”
50 States: OKLAHOMA is made possible with support from the Tulsa Artist Fellowship and The Invisible Dog Art Center. We are indebted to Tahlequality and the new owners of Discoveryland for their generosity, and numerous individual donors.