Artists under lock and key
- Published: November 13, 2014
Put a Yellow Springs muralist, a Kettering city planner and a Columbus trash artist in a gallery. Add two boxes of random art materials. Allow them three tools apiece. Hire a videographer to record them.
Then don’t let them out for three days.
That’s the recipe for next week’s Locked In — A Creative Collaboration. After 72 hours of being confined to the Yellow Springs Arts Council Community Gallery, the artists, currently complete strangers, will emerge with an art installation they created together.
What the final artwork will look like is anyone’s guess. It’s part of the intrigue — and fun — of the process, according to Arts Council gallery coordinator Nancy Mellon.
“The point is to make a challenge for artists,” Mellon said. “It’s always fun to add a little mystery and excitement.”
The collaborative art installation will be on display Nov. 15–30 in the YSAC gallery, 111 Corry St., with an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 14. Artists will share their lock-in stories at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14. Regular gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.
At the lock-in, local artist and muralist Pierre Nagley will join Kettering artist Ron Hundt, a city planner by day, and Columbus 2-D mixed-media collage artist Jennifer Bachelder, who loves to work with garbage. Their creative process can be viewed through peep holes in the paper-covered windows of the gallery Monday to Wednesday, Nov. 10–12. The artists — if they choose to sleep — will do so in the gallery’s back classroom.
According to Mellon, more than 20 talented artists applied and a jury eventually selected those it thought would be good working with recycled materials and “by the seat of their pants.”
“It was a hard choice among a lot of good artists,” Mellon said.
With a background in architecture, 59-year-old Hundt creates miniature barns, doors, towers and abstract pieces using almost entirely all recycled materials — everything from old brake drums on cars to hardware from a street sweeper blade. His lock-in submission was “American Gothic Re-imagined as Stick Figures.” Hundt said he has an eye for “seeing the possibilities of how something can be used in a different way.”
While Hundt has collaborated with other artists, he has never done so with complete strangers and unknown materials on a rigid time schedule. He both relishes the challenge and foresees a fruitful collaboration.
“You bring your vision, they bring theirs, and in my experience usually you’re all the better for it,” he said.
Bachelder fashions two-dimensional mixed-media collages from found materials like old clothing tags and the foil of a Chipotle burrito. In fact, Bachelder, a 28-year-old freelance designer and artist working in Westerville, has a strict rule that all her art materials be sourced from the trash, not purchased at a store. The choice to use trash is part environmentally conscious, part design conscious. She said she enjoys repurposing to give materials destined for the dump a new life.
“Designers and artists take so much time to produce a single product — I feel guilty about throwing it away,” Bachelder said.
While Bachelder has had art-making trash parties with friends and created on-the-spot pieces at conferences with trash collected from attendees, she has never experienced the challenge of collaboration under time pressure. But working together can help artists understand how what they do is unique.
“It makes you not only re-evaluate your own skills, you also become hyper aware of the skills of those around you,” Bachelder said of collaboration.
Nagley, though he is from Yellow Springs and well known for his backdrops for the Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse shows and murals around town, was “not a shoo-in,” Mellon said. But he impressed the jury with a portfolio of work that included a seven-foot tall Buddha made from bottle caps, photos from a light show he erected at the Spirited Goat Coffeehouse, and an impressive structure crafted from sticks.
Videographer Travis Hawkes from Glen Ellyn, Ill. will record the creative process from beginning to end as the only non-artist allowed inside the gallery (except for those bringing meals). Hawkes will edit his footage, along with the footage from wall-mounted cameras, into a short film capturing the experience. The film is to be completed by January.
Looking over the boxes of collected materials Mellon said that there are “so many different directions” the artists could go. Ultimately she said she feels the limits created by the lock-in will unleash the creativity of the artists.
“Any time you give artists a constraint on their art project — or they give themselves a constraint — they push a little harder and learn something new,” Mellon said. Referring to the box of materials she added, “It’s really good for artists to think outside of the box — or in this case in the box.”