Oklahoma Too concerns the art of salesmanship, shifting relationships and power games. It is a post-modern docudrama that is at times improvisatory as well as poetic; a satirical portrait of middle America's fondness for gold nugget jewelry.
Rochelle Owens' innovative video, OKLAHOMA TOO, stretched the medium of poetry by invading another — video — which in turn was expanded in the process. Surreal and absurd, yet biographical and true to life, Owens' poem-video is a hybrid with brilliant plumage. The ellipses and thought jumps of poetry find perfect expression in the collage character of video and the results in Owens' hands are hilarious at the same moment they enlighten. Video — a perfect union of image and idea — is a medium made for her. As an art critic who knows most of the artist-subjects of HOW MUCH PAINT DOES THE PAINTING NEED, which I heard her read last summer, I await its visualization with an especially focused interest.
Rochelle Owens is one of this country's foremost avant-garde playwrights, has won many distinctions Off Broadway, had her plays performed and reviewed nationally and internationally, and she is also a poet of distinction. Recently she has begun working in video, and I have had the opportunity of seeing her first completed video piece "Oklahoma Too" and a new work in progress "How Much Paint Does the Painting Need." Both of these works reveal an original sensibility and a way of working, employing both her verbal resources as a poet and comic dramaturgic capabilities for farcical improvisatory scenes that she combines with more formal verbal resources in a way that is entirely novel for video. I sense that if she keeps working with the medium she is going to make very important contributions to the field, with which as a long time art and video critic I am quite thoroughly familiar.
ROCHELLE OWENS has a national—indeed, international—reputation as a poet and playwright who has been extraordinarily creative and continually productive both in New York City and now in Oklahoma where she has lived for the past few years. I have taught her play, Futz, in my film and drama course, and we also studied the film adaptation. The students were awed, and thrilled to have her give a guest lecture. She has also taught playwriting here at the University, given many readings, and helped to revitalize and reinvigorate the creative arts in our community.
She has recently combined her talents as poet and playwright in a new medium, video, and produced a witty and thought-provoking 30 minute film entitled "Oklahoma Too." Using as a base the Oklahoma production of and fondness for nugget jewelry, she playfully satirizes middle-aged, middle America, our delights, perversities, and causes, with lyric intensity. The balance of sequences in the video varies the pace and focus so that visually and aurally I, as a viewer, was constantly engrossed. There is a careful pattern of repetition, giving a sense of structure and closure, and strengthening the memory of face, form, and content.
ROCHELLE OWENS is working in an exciting new medium for her. She is a committed, energetic artist, establishing new possibilities for creative expression, and bringing together a wealth of experience, and an intensity of voice and vision.