I had the pleasure and great fortune to have been asked to collaborate on an art piece that was to be on display in the Charlottesville McGuffy Art Center. The purpose of this piece was to encourage collaboration among artists/community members and illustrate what beauty can come of such collaboration.
I was the fourth out of the five artists to receive the piece. Each artist was given one simple instruction; add a “layer” to the piece…thus the possibilities were endless. I was extremely excited to start!
The essence of layering is known as “a single thickness of material covering a surface or forming an overlaying part.” When the piece fell into my hands, it had already undergone many iterations of layering ON the piece. It was a beautiful piece. I was wondering how I could contribute another “layer” that could capture the essence of the overall theme, collaboration, and also be unique to my hand. I inquired and discovered that the final layer was to be the overlaying of a poem, and the theme of that poem was water. Thus, I knew my layer was to connect the current pictorial state of the piece to the final theme of the poem in one fluid motion. Instead of adding another layer ON the piece, I wanted to manipulate the piece itself; do something TO the piece. Thus, redefining the definition of layer and connecting the visual image of the painted water to the theme of Most’s poem, water. I molded the piece to reflect the fluidity of a wave rolling and settling upon the water.
I used a copper metal sheet as my mold, it was easily manipulated but strong enough to hold its form. Then I made a glue-water mixture to, in essence, “paper-mache” the piece into a new form. I started by testing mini models to make sure my glue-water mixture was the proper consistency, and to verify that it would not stick to the copper after it dried. The process took roughly 15 minutes to apply the glue-mixture and mold to the copper, and I let it dry for 36 hours. The piece was thick paper/canvas, thus I needed to heavily apply the mixture in order for it to mold smoothly and not bend. After drying, the piece easily slipped off the mold, leaving another art form as the “waste.”
Layering is a progressive action that builds off the former, making it so no layer can stand alone in isolation and hold the same thematic expression. Each layer is stronger together as a whole. Through the collaboration of the layers (performed through the hands of the artists), the piece becomes stronger and stronger and develops its own language. The theme of this piece has evolved in alignment with the piece’s visual and physical evolution. It began with the purpose of showing collaboration, then it evolved to a piece representing artistic layers, then upon completion, water reads as the theme.
What amazing possibilities can result from collaboration!
Thank you to Clint Lees and Matt Gordon for all the work they have done in their architectural exhibit in the McGuffy Art Center. And special thanks to them for asking all the artists, Scott Smith, Mac Morecock, Laura Lee, John Most and myself, to participate in this incredible collaborative art piece.