Friday, April 3, 2015

Art Party in a Castle

Brandon and his good friend and and fellow artist, Travis, recently showed their newest collaborative art installation piece in one of the rooms of our cities community art league, shown above.  On the night of the art opening, we gathered with friends to see their work and the work of the other artists in the show, before heading to a local brewery.   

I don't often visit castles.  I do, being married to an artist, and having artist friends, occasionally get to go to interesting places filled with art and mingle with interesting folks.  Without this reminder that there are people in the world who don't stay home every night tending their chickens, I might actually achieve the hermit cat lady status I've been working toward.  

In the picture above, Jamie is looking at the largest of Brandon and Travis's sculptural pieces, which is meant to be considered in context with the other, smaller, sculptures that are placed around the room.  Brandon and Travis have been working collaboratively since 2007, and you can scroll through the chronicle of their artistic journey together by looking here.  I took photo's while we were there because I thought Brandon may want to use them on his blog, but I've decided to steal them for my own, so I can remind myself that despite being categorized as an introvert on a personality test I recently took, I do get out and about sometimes.  This was a particularly fun event to attend since it was close enough to home that we met up with lots of friends, and there was someone there giving free samples of a new Kentucky bourbon.  Art, friends, beer, bourbon, and staying up way past my bed time - ha!  who's an introvert now, test?!

The pod on the floor was made by Brandon using paper mache.  Over it's lifetime it's been painted on, dripped on, wrapped in rope, foamed, waxed, and who knows.  The result is a very complex surface texture.  And because I know Brandon's work, and that he refers to these amorphous anatomical shapes that he makes as meat pods, or meat sacks, and because I know how the book Moby Dick has influenced his work, I see the white hump of this large form as whale-like.  This is enhanced by the small spears sticking in the top, the rope, and the scale of the tiny chair perched on it's back.       

In preparation for this show, the pod went to live in Travis's studio, where it grew the wooden appendage which appears to be interacting with the marks on the wall, and seems to have been colonized by small spears and a tiny wooden chair. Travis works primarily with wood, string, and paint, and because I know his work is often sculptural objects that appear to be ambiguously mechanical, I can identify Travis's presence in this piece because of the long, hinged, appendage that is tied to the pod, which is connected to the drawing on the wall.  I also know that Travis uses small toy like objects that he makes from wood, such as chairs, ladders, boats, and blocks, and these objects are incorporated into this installation in several places.  If you would like to see some of Travis's cool sculptures and paintings, you can see them on his website, here.  

Some friends of mine that came to the show expressed some concern that Brandon and Travis had drawn directly on the wall, and asked me if they were allowed to do that.  Of all the strange aspects of this work, I thought it was funny that marking up the wall was their first concern!

As the evening progressed, and the gallery got more crowded, and the crowd enjoyed more and more bourbon, spirits were high.  Right before we decided to move our party to the brewery down town, Travis's little daughter decided to make her mark in the art world, and used her hand to smudge the charcoal lines on the wall and make a perfect tiny hand print in the white space in the center.  I'm not sure how Travis felt about this, by I totally understood her impulse.  I always want to touch the art when in a gallery.  

Although the large sculpture and wall drawing was the first thing to draw my attention, there are other pieces installed around the room.  

There's a smaller pod on the wall above the mantel, with a flower coming from the top...

A bird on the book shelf that has had it's head dipped in black paint...

And an arrangement of small objects including a ladder, chair, and blocks at the bottom of the other book shelf...  

On the opposite wall is a sculptural wooden shelf, with a white bird perched on the edge, whose eye has been painted to look like thick black eyelashes, and who has a bright red patch on it's wing.  They refer to this as the Godbird.  When the Godbird isn't displayed in an art exhibit, it sometimes perches on my living room wall.  

The title of the entire art exhibition was called "Horror Amour", which means fear of emptiness.  Brandon and Travis were invited to submit an art piece by the curator of the show, who selected enough artworks from artists to fill the galleries of the castle.  

 The title of Brandon and Travis's art installation piece is View of the big nothing from an abandoned perch atop pink meat pod island (with Godbird watching).

My photo of their artist statement turned out blurry, but I thought the statement was interesting and helps to describe the work, so I will include the text that Brandon and Travis included on the wall in the room where their art was displayed. Hopefully I can see it well enough not to mess it up!

Now in our ninth year of engaging in collaborative projects, SmithTownsendCollaborative presents view of the big nothing from an abandoned perch atop pink meat pod island (with Godbird watching).  As we've done before, we've overlapped our visual languages to try to create something that neither one of us would make on our own.  And this work picks up on some of the narratives our past projects have suggested while attempting to thoughtfully contribute to the theme put forth by curator Georgia Herkel.  Things changed a bit as we got on site to collaboratively install the work, but overall our plan came together. 

The wall-drawn component connects via a long hinged wooden "chain" to a rather largish pinkish meaty-looking pod of Brandon's creation.  On top of the pod is a lonely little remnant of a brick house with an empty chair in it.  The chair views the big empty blob on the wall as Godbird (the strange-looking painted bird sculpture) watches from his high perch on the wall.  There are some other components, too that add to the narrative possibilities.  So, not love of emptiness or fear of emptiness as much as just normal, kind dumb, lonely-human-on-a-rock-in-a-big-void kinda emptiness.  And that damn Godbird doesn't seem to be doing much.  

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