Luke Wagner, like the majority of college students, spends a great deal of his time in coffee shops.
“I go to coffee shops to be inspired,” said Wagner, an artist and a senior majoring in Biblical Literature.
Wagner spent hours at Fair Fellow Coffee in downtown Tulsa his junior year, studying the Bible and drawing in the sketchbooks provided on the shop tables. He was surprised when he was asked to show his work inside the coffee shop.
“I remember receiving that text. It was the first day of classes of my senior year. I woke up to it and was like ‘Wow, this is a lot bigger than I thought it was,’” recalled Wagner.
One of the managers at Fair Fellow saw some of Wagner’s artwork in the sketchbooks and on Instagram and asked him to be their featured artist for the month of December.
“That was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had because I got to talk one-on-one with so many people about my art,” said Wagner.
Wagner’s art is minimalistic—pen and ink line drawings depicting simple subjects, usually human hands, intending a spiritual connection. He hopes his art communicates messages of peace and God’s faithfulness.
“The theology I’m studying—I’ll read books about it and I’ll write papers about it. Lots of people won’t do that,” said Wagner. “But I still think that knowing who God is and knowing what scripture says about God is of the utmost importance.”
People can connect with an image in a way they often wouldn’t with a sermon or a book, according to Wagner.
“Whenever I put [the images] on paper, it’s not to sell them or even appeal to aesthetics. I would love for my art to be like icons somesort. To where people can look at it and it can draw them closer to the one it’s representing: God,” said Wagner.
Wagner isn’t alone in his desire to share art with the greater Tulsa community. Frida Cornelio, a senior studio arts major, shared some of her art in the Conciliation series at the Black Wall Street gallery this past December. The owner of the gallery found Cornelio’s work through social media and messaged her, asking her to be a part of the gallery, explained Cornelio.
“He was trying to find people of different backgrounds for the gallery and mix cultures,” said Cornelio, who is from Mexico.
The gallery showed 10 of her pieces, painted in Old Style, following the fathers of art itself. Some of her pieces in the gallery included portraits of Latin American women depicted in traditional Latin American clothing. She hopes women and people in general are empowered when they look at her paintings.
“I want to empower people not to be ashamed of their culture,” said Cornelio. “Right now, in the U.S., with the things going on in Hispanic culture, I want people to remember their roots and to even show other people our culture, because some people don’t know about it.”
When asked how people can support artists, aside from buying their works, both Wagner and Cornelio encouraged people to attend events and ask questions.
“I think it gives an artist a lot of pleasure and pride whenever they are asked a question—when they are allowed to explain what their art is all about,” said Wagner.
“As an artist, you just want people to see your work—of course it’s great to sell something—but it feels good for people to look at your work and experience the same thing you were experiencing while you made the piece,” said Cornelio.
Luke Wagner’s work is being shown at Free Spirit Chiropractor for the month of January, and he will be involved in a pop-up shop at Fair Fellow Coffee on Feb. 2. He often posts his work on Instagram @leswag_97. Cornelio’s artwork is available on www.fridacornelio.com.
Photo provided by Luke Wagner