Emma Palmer on the work of Luba Lukova

Internationally renowned, New York-based Luba Lukova is regarded as one of the most original image-makers working today. Her exhibition “Designing Justice” will be on display at the Henry Zarrow Center for Art & Education from March 6 – April 19.

Emma Palmer, graphic design, English and creative writing major at The University of Tulsa, interviewed Lukova ahead of the art opening. 

Designing Justice Luba Lukova Poster

Luba Lukova always knew she wanted to be an artist, and she traces her artistic lineage back to Greek art itself.

“When I was a young kid, I remember when I first saw these Greek vases we had in Bulgarian art museums,” Lukova said of her homeland, where she lived until 1991. “They made a big impression on me. The dynamic silhouettes, the energy and the composition. I didn’t want to mimic that; it just impressed me that, with only black and orange, one could make something so intriguing to the eye.”

This heritage is apparent in Lukova’s work, where “clarity and concept” rule over all. Lukova’s figures stand out against one-color backgrounds, striking a balance similar to Greek pottery. Her simplified figures are universal and abstracted to the point where they could be anyone: your friend, your enemy—even you. Lukova hopes to inspire empathy through the universality of her work.

Lukova’s exhibit at the Zarrow Center, “Designing Justice,” took over three years to produce. It all started when Lukova was invited to speak at the Art Directors Club of Tulsa. There she made connections with Teresa Valero, director of the school of art, design and art history, and realized just how close to Tulsa the Race Massacre was.

I Have a Dream Luba Lukova Poster

After the presentation, Lukova had dinner with her hosts and brought up the subject of the race massacre. She was surprised to learn the location was only a block away from where they were eating.

Tulsa became a natural choice for her justice-based art which “is not just designing, but is also defining. Art defines justice. No matter what medium. The idea of fundamental justice is in whatever art I create,” Lukova said.

In addition to the traveling “Designing Justice” exhibit, Lukova is also creating a Tulsa-specific work commemorating the Tulsa Race Massacre’s centennial as a part of a community project she entitled “A Legacy of Hope.” The name draws from the idea that there is hope to be found in the younger generation.

Lukova has asked local high schoolers and TU students to join her in this project, encouraging them to do their own research and create a poster to be displayed alongside her work. The students will have an exclusive opportunity to work with Lukova in a limited-space workshop where they will receive one-on-one instruction, talking through the process of creating justice-oriented art.

Income Gap Luba Lukova Poster

Molly Burns, a junior graphic design major, is spearheading the project. A selected group of TU design students have been invited to work closely with Lukova, thumbnailing designs and developing their work from Lukova’s critiques.

Burns described the project as being a step forward for Tulsa in acknowledging the more violent parts of the city’s history. “What happened in Greenwood was brushed away,” Burns said. “For me, a large part of this project has been about raising awareness and educating.” Through the work of Lukova and TU students, Burns hopes to facilitate discussions that can lead to healing.

Lukova also finds hope in the project and in the budding artists she is working with. She stressed that “A Legacy of Hope” means: “There is hope in the new generations. We have to keep hoping.”

You can find more of Lukova’s work at www.lukova.net.