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Artists Jamie Pettis and Jack Fowler Team Up for "Love Is OK" in Phoenix

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Phoenix resident and Oklahoma City native Jamie Pettis brings her portrait-centric collection of vibrantly colored art to Grand Avenue's {9} The Gallery for an opening First Friday, February 7, from 7 to 11 p.m. She brings with her longtime OKC friend and fellow artist, Jack Fowler, whose work ranges from portraits to landscapes to sculptures, and basically anything else he feels like experimenting with. The show, "Love Is OK," will remain on view for a month.

Pettis and Fowler talked to Jackalope Ranch about what inspires them, why they love the Oklahoma art scene and are excited about Phoenix's, and how they know making art is their true calling.

See also: Bianca Lauren Galleries Seeks Artists for Scottsdale Pop-Up Show

Although Pettis and Fowler practically grew up together and went to the same college, they didn't stay in touch too much after graduating and going their separate ways.

After college and an internship in NYC with Marc Jacobs, Jamie ventured off to Los Angeles to pursue acting and art, before she ended up moving to Phoenix to be with her girlfriend, who had already made Arizona her home.

Pettis and Fowler reconnected via social media a few years back, and Jack ended up making a trip out to Phoenix to see Oklahoma State play in the Fiesta Bowl.

"And then we were like, 'Oh you're an artist?'" says Pettis. "And we started keeping up with each other. I keep up with the Oklahoma scene a lot, because it's really growing, and I really wanted to go back and contribute, so it's been a really big connector."

Since she's moved to Arizona, Pettis has gone back several times to OKC to showcase her work, missing the local art scene that locals refer to as "OKC art."

"The scene in Oklahoma City right now is insane," Fowler says. "It's probably the best art scene in the county, because of our economy. We're the only city in America building skyscrapers instead of tearing them down. I haven't had a job [aside from art] in three years and I couldn't have done that 10 years ago."

After doing four exhibitions back home, Pettis realized that she had something she could contribute to the Phoenix art scene and saw the same momentum building that she had been witnessing in Oklahoma City over the past 10 years.

"Just from living here and knowing the artists around, there's a lot of talent," she says. "And I see a lot of people kicking butt to really make that spark or growth happen here. They're trying to get that same momentum, and all the creators around here are trying to make things blossom in the downtown and arts scene. So that's another reason I wanted to bring Jack out here, cause it's like 'Hey, it's happening over here, too.'"

This is Jack's first out-of-state show, and he says he's really excited to see what the energy is like on First Friday.

"I'm really flattered to be here," he says. "If it's anything like home, it's gonna be a blast."

Pettis is excited to see just how far Phoenix can go artistically, and she says there are people around here who just have that "oomph" to make things pop.

While Pettis' art usually consists of portraits, Jack's says he doesn't really have a style, though he did start out with portraits and thinks his and Pettis' styles are similar in some regard.

"I'm all over the place," Fowler says. "I'm kind of a new artist. I've only been doing this for like four or five years, and so I started out as a portrait artist, my style's more pop-art, like Warhol-inspired, but lately I've just been experimenting. I've kind of gotten braver as I've got my feet under me and I've made a living doing it."

Fowler says he's always been artistic, but he never painted anything. That is until about five years back when his sister randomly asked him to paint her a piece for Christmas.

"I did it and I really liked it," he says. "So I did another one to give away, and then I started making paintings for my friends, and then people started offering me money. I booked a show a couple months later, and it outgrew gainful employment, so I quit. I've done it almost three years now full-time."

"Dream job," Pettis says.

"Oh, it's incredible," says Fowler. "I can't go back, I could never go back. I would probably choose death over 40 hours a week. I don't know how I could do that, or how I ever did."

Jack says he knows that the reason he tried so many different jobs, ranging from a journalist, musician, and teacher, was because he hadn't yet found what he was supposed to do.

"Now, I'll never do anything else, ever, this is what I do now," he says.

Pettis' path to art looked a lot different, as her father, a lawyer, owned a little art studio when she was a kid back in Oklahoma City. She says he would take her up there every Saturday to paint and draw, and that always stuck with her.

Though she's always painted on and off, while exploring other creative outlets such as fashion design (which she has a degree in), acting, and singing, she's been seriously focusing on her painting for three or four years now.

Jamie says she loves portraiture and painting faces. She says she loves taking faces and manipulating them to make some sort of statement with their expression. When coupled with her aptly-chosen title, the faces will convey a feeling she's experienced that, she says, maybe somebody else has felt, too, and the viewer can connect with.

Fowler says that while he typically doesn't make New Year's resolutions, he kind of did this year, when he decided that everything he does going forward he wants to be the most beautiful thing he's ever made.

"I worked with this artist named Wayne White for six weeks," he says. "He did an installation for an art museum, and I helped him build it. But he said something to me that really stuck with me. He said, "Art is not what you do. It's about the interaction between who's looking at it and what you've made. It's the energy created between the viewer and what you've made. That's what art is. It's not paint on a canvas. It's somebody looking at your paint on canvas -- or it's worthless.'"

Fowler says he doesn't really care what his art makes somebody feel, just as long as they aren't able to ignore it. He says that if you go into a piece with an expectation or desire of what you want to make a person feel, it limits you and who can enjoy what you've done.

He doesn't want to approach it that way, and says that if his art makes you feel something, then he thinks he's done a good job and made good art.

"I think what it's all about isn't explainable," Pettis says. "You can't define love or art to me, I just know when I'm connecting. I was painting one day -- I was stroking, and it hit me, and I put a quote down that basically said, 'With each stroke I come more to terms with my personal truth. I understand this is exactly what I'm meant to be.'"

Jamie Pettis and Jack Fowler's "Love is OK" exhibit opens Friday, February 7, at {9} The Gallery located at 1229 Grande Avenue. For more information, you can visit the Pettis' artist Facebook page or Fowler's website.

Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version.

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