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‘Extraction Economy’

Although his work takes many forms, local artist Chris Sauter is best known for sculpture that involves him cutting precise shapes out of drywall and using the pieces to construct recognizable objects — from microscopes and cakes to full-size furniture. Often, the patterns left behind by his drywall extractions are works of art in their own right. They can resemble constellations or more figurative objects. He’s had memorable exhibitions at Artpace, where he recreated his childhood dining room from drywall cut from the gallery walls; Blue Star Contemporary, where he presented a fully decorated replica of his childhood bedroom; and the McNay, where he constructed a disorienting, fully furnished living room populated with models of dopamine. In addition, Sauter sent art scenesters on a 2013 multi-venue “pilgrimage” by mounting four complementary exhibitions exploring intersections between science and spirituality. Outside of his life as a working artist, Sauter serves as interim chair of painting and drawing and the director of foundations at the Southwest School of Art and as visiting faculty at the Art and Rural Environments Field School, a summer program administered by the University of Colorado Boulder. While traveling with the field school through the Midwest, Sauter found inspiration in the passing landscape and started writing words with marker on a van window. “I first wrote ‘Surrender Dorothy,’ then saw the potential for a meaningful piece and erased ‘Dorothy,’ leaving ‘Surrender,’” Sauter explained. “The word ‘surrender’ seemed to reflect the unforgiving environment of the Oklahoma panhandle, the agricultural and petroleum industries [and] Oklahoma as the end stop of the Trail of Tears.” A video Sauter shot of that impromptu piece became the backbone of his forthcoming Contemporary Art Month show “Extraction Economy.” Summed up as “a meditation on the landscape,” the exhibition touches on agriculture, oil production, ancestry, natural disasters and Oklahoma’s position as the buckle of the Bible Belt. He addresses those themes via a human-sized sculptural cross cast in corn and resin, drawings of a tornado hitting a grain bin and an oil derrick drilling into a series of deposits and, amusingly, a stack of prints reproducing frames from the movie Twister.

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