Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wise Owl + Sly Fox get &"Arty" - Bemis Center's First Thursday ArtTalk

Last Thursday Wise Owl and I, along with a few of our friends, went to the fantastic Bemis Center for their monthly First Thursday Art Talk.  From the Bemis Center’s website:
Founded on the guiding principle that exceptional talent deserves to be supported, the Bemis Center also believes that this talent should be shared with the community. Join us for our First Thursday Art Talk lecture series. Held the first Thursday of every month at 7:00 pm, current artists-in-residence give presentations of their work and discuss their creative processes. Always insightful, these discussions provide a rare opportunity to meet artists and learn first-hand about their inspirations, approaches and techniques. These events are always free and open to the public. 
 Free and open to the public? Words I live by. This particular Thursday there were three presentations from artists Matthew Radune, Eric Zimmerman and a husband and wife duo who work under the name Ghost of a Dream. Each artist talked for approximately half an hour about a number of different projects they had created. 
Ghost of a Dream created a Lamborghini out of discarded lotto tickets
Ghost of a Dream was up first. This creative couple from Brooklyn has traveled the world after creating beautiful pieces of art from discarded lottery tickets. The drive behind the pieces, they said, was the collection of these items which represented a blind hope for a better future. They thought about what people purchased with their lottery winnings and the first three pieces they created were a full sized Hummer, and while they spent hours at various dealerships taking measurements and shading the car’s dimensions on sheets of paper they were never asked once if they were looking to purchase,  a vacation, and finally a dream home.  
H3 Hummer made from lotto tickets
 What was interesting about these pieces is that the literal value of the lottery tickets used is the actual amount of the item they are creating, i.e. the Hummer used approximately $40,000 worth of lottery tickets which is the base cost for the vehicle itself.
The Dining Room; every item made from lottery tickets
When it came time for the couple’s dream home, they created a dining room as they thought this was the one room in an expensive house that is shown off the most. So not only did they create this entire room from lottery tickets, but the artwork on the walls is all hand created based on actual pieces of art which were bought by countries using lottery money.
Ghost of a Dream created a motorized toy boat that they played with in Miami
Ghost of a Dream creates art that takes the context of our current social and economical states into consideration to make these huge installations that comment on the extreme wealth and extreme poverty in which most Americans live.The one question I wanted to ask the couple was whether either of them has ever felt overwhelmed by their collection process. In a society where shows like Hoarders and Buried Alive are becoming sensationalized commentaries of our lives, I wondered if the couple had ever felt like they needed to take a step back, to take a breath to realize or refocus on their purpose so they don’t end up two old wackadoodles with Christ loads of garbage around them. That being said, what they make is just too beautiful to be taken over by something as inane as that.

Matthew's finished project - Ice House

Next up was Matthew Radune who spent the majority of his time talking about his super neat project called “Ice House”. Matthew discussed the inspiration behind the project, which set its roots in Detroit, MI. When Matthew and his partner had made the decision to turn a standing house into an ice house, they had to think about the physical location in which this was possible. They almost immediately thought of Detroit due not only to its winters, but also its history. They went back to the 1960s during a time of mass race riots and protests where Detroit police would literally hose down any black protesters. Then they moved to Detroit’s present day where in a town that is essentially abandoned now due to the lack of available work, there are many abandoned homes. Matthew and his partner didn’t have too much trouble finding the house they wanted. 
The Before Picture
Matthew talked about the process as well as the neighborhood’s reaction to it all. At first, he said, they all thought a pipe had burst, but once they were told it was art, you could see the turn in their eyes, the realization that what was happening right in their backyard was pretty neat. Matthew flips through slides of all of the neighbors who wanted their picture taken with the Ice House. It was a really touching moment that was ruined during the Q & A portion of his talk as a dissatisfied woman in the back claimed that he was not doing Detroit any services by bringing this piece of artwork to their streets, and as a past resident of the city, Matthew wasn’t fully grasping what was actually happening there. At that moment everyone got really quiet, it was rather uncomfortable but our presenter passed it off without showing any fear or hesitation. Who knew a night at the Bemis could be so dramatic?!

Finally, Eric Zimmerman took the stand and was the perfect artist to close down the talk. Eric was relaxed, but also visibly excited to tell us all about what he had been working on. Eric’s world is one full of questions and fascination with events that occurred in the time before he was born. His questions regarded the history of objects, how are we making sense of the objects which are presented to us? How are we believing the photograph in front of us as proof that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon? In Eric’s world, objects and knowledge are very noisy and interesting. He has many obsessions including cassette recorders and tapes, handmade newspapers, and LIFE magazine photograph spreads specifically from the issue from the month he was born. 

Eric created his own newspapers
Eric, like Ghost of a Dream, is a collector but instead of dismembering objects and using their pieces to create something entirely new, Eric places these items together in their entirety in a way in which they are not opposing each other, but rather reflecting a time or event which has already occurred. 
Hand drawn Fistful of Dollars poster
I think the most interesting piece of thought that I took away from Eric that night was the fact that he physically drew any photographs he wanted to include in his pieces because he believes hand drawing the picture takes away the specific characteristics which we would normally identify and tie with a specific time period. 

I would highly recommend any resident of Omaha who finds themselves in need of something to do on the first Thursday of every month to check out the happenings at the Bemis Center. After we were done with the talk, we went over to Urban Wine Company for a bottle of wine and some delicious appetizers (try the artichoke & spinach dip, it’s to die for). Here are some other snaps from the night:

- Sly Fox

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