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Heavy Duty: The Steamroller Print Fest 2021

4:23 AM EDT on April 26, 2021

After a most fearsome year of social distancing, home lockdowns and life-threatening illnesses, it was a relief to finally feel like we’re in the beginning stages of a newfound freedom, walking around outside at a local art festival, viewing visual explosions of sheer creativity by talented locals that, I’m sure, have been nearly dying for area attention all year as well.

Armed with a bunch of canvases, a lot of dark paint and one fucking big steamroller, the apropos Steamroller Print Fest 2021, sponsored by Artspace at Untitled, was held down in Deep Deuce this past Saturday, bringing together two human properties you rarely see in the same sport—the art crowd and the construction crowd—coinciding as the mighty machine created art right before me by using the woodprints by artists and the steamroller as a press, combining the two in artistic bliss.

A friend and I arrived sometime around noon to a well-stocked crowd that seemed eager to get out of the house as well, many with masks on, many with art under their arms, many with beers aplenty. As we walked by the various tents that included beautiful pieces ranging from homemade dolls to big name books—and I think there was a cryogenic clinic?—people were happy to get out and support the Oklahoma City art-scene.

But, while all that is good and fair and pure, to be honest, I wanted to see how the much-touted steamroller, an instrument capable of roadside destruction, actually created eye-catching artwork for the masses. Steel fences and concrete supports had the previously rolled and finished prints for sale taped to them, many somewhere around $50, all with a dark tinge of rough sharpness that gave them a prehistoric—or is that post-apocalyptic—look?

Through the dark underpass and on a long strip of closed-off road was the highly-touted steamroller. With a smokey white plume that rose out of its gurgling pipe, as the gas was mashed the mighty machine rolled forward, stomping the inked wood-prints onto the large swatches of canvas, creating a press that’s more comparable to the Gutenberg Bible than any unholy book published today.

The volunteers ran onto the concrete strip to remove the wood and canvas, allowing the prints to dry as the assembled crowd oohed and awed at the finished work that was displayed. These scattered pieces were the printmaking of our dystopic present, hopefully giving ideas for high art in all its forms a hopeful future of dangerous creation.

I noticed that, beyond the resting steamroller, on top of a tricked-out van, the area basketball team’s buffalo mascot Rumble was sensually dancing to the sounds of the Village People; he pointed at me with a come-hither glare and I responded. However, as multiple children gathered around, the tune was quickly changed to “Baby Shark” much to their toddler-friendly delights, a small army of smaller arms pointed in my immediate direction, wavering up and down like dangerous jaws.

With fear in my eyes and my heart, I left and went to the real musical stage for a few minutes, enjoying Culture Cinematic for a few minutes before leaving.

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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