In late January, Edmond-based artist Christie Owen sold an abstract piece she created in 2014. Neither the curator nor Owen knew the buyer, yet the painting’s new owner was moved enough by the work itself to purchase it.
“You cross this threshold where people are interested in your work just because of the work. They don’t know you,” says Owen. “That’s always absolutely floored me that I could do that, that I could reach somebody that way.”
Like most artists, Owen’s journey didn’t start with strangers purchasing her pieces. After graduating college with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, she became a graphic designer and ushered her artistic abilities into a desk job for two decades. When she returned to painting in her mid-30s, Owen started with animals and landscapes before moving to abstract expressionism. After encouragement from her family, friends and other local artists, she displayed her art publicly for the first time in 2009.
She says she hopes her work evokes a sense of tranquility, calmness and balance. In examining her paintings or sculptures, viewers can disconnect for a moment from technology and the rush of modern life to lose themselves in the shapes and colors of the art.
“I make art just to be a human being,” she says.
Creating offers an outlet for Owen to return to the moment and to her humanity. Her practice is both intuitive and intentional. She says sometimes she likes to go in with a plan for every detail – a strategy she learned during her sculpture apprenticeship with David L. Phelps. Even so, Owen says there’s nothing like letting your spirit go. Many of her pieces are built using layers of paint and other media. For her, the adding and subtracting of these layers is calming.
So far this year, Owen has had opportunities to lean into both the intuitive and intentional sides of her work. Her biggest painting – literally – is a 10-foot by 14-foot diptych commission for BC Clark Jewelers. The piece, Radiance, is part of her Sugar Mountain series in which Owen applies acrylic paint and modeling paste into a grid of colors. Named for a Neil Young song and the frosting-like texture of the paint, the Sugar Mountain series is Owen’s most popular to date.
“I think people tend to gravitate towards the Sugar Mountain paintings because they’re intricate,” she says. “The work is different from the other abstract pieces I do.”
Outside of commissions for retail and hotel spaces, Owen creates work driven by her intuitive process. She is preparing to send pieces to a gallery in Bentonville, Ark., an endeavor she’s been coordinating since March 2020. For this project, Owen is creating a new series called Switch, which incorporates physical pieces from her past works. Owen says this is a new way of working that asks her to embrace the idea that the first choice might be the best choice. The assemblage becomes an ongoing puzzle that constantly requires her to ask herself if she can find contentment in what she has created.
“I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again,” she says. “I’m always trying to push myself and evolve my work.”