Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Migration of Junkmail--An Ornithological Study
July 1 to August 22, 2007

Tempe, Arizona

It's interesting how artists know so many other artists. But most of the time we do artwork on our own and maybe ha
ve an exhibition or exchange art with other artists and call it a collaboration. Yet, we don't really work with other artists to create art. At the beginning of the year, I got a call from the Tempe Arts and Culture folks asking if The Paper Studio would do an exhibition at one of their spaces located in the Tempe Post Office in downtown Tempe, right by the University. Now this is sort of a crazy space for exhibitions. Think--4 triangle window displays that are visible from the inside and outside. The show would be in July/August, the hottest time of the year (fade factor is a major issue). They said we could coordinate a group show or arrange to have one of our past shows exhibited.

Gary and I contacted three artists who we've known for a long time and told them about the exhibition and that each one could have their own window space and Gary & I would take the 4th space. We had 7 months to get organized. Three months went by and a few emails were exchanged--everyone was really busy and we decided we better meet for Chinese food to get the show squared away.
Somewhere between the orange chicken and schezuan green beans, the conversation shifted from exhibiting our own work to creating a site-specific installation created by the 5 of us specifically for the Post Office site. We decided to use junkmail because it is so common and once it is faded, we can just re-pulp the show! Sparks were flying during dinner and I don't think it was the moo shu pork! It is amazing that once we had a concept how the ideas kept rolling. We left the dinner all inspired and excited about the show.

We started working every Sunday as a group. Thank goodness for our papermaking studio to contain all the mess! Once we figured out how to tell a story and tie all the windows together, we got rolling--first a field trip to the site, gathering junk mail--lots of junk mail is thrown away in the post office garbages (not that we would know!) and making paper mache birds. Each of us had to take on separate tasks in order to accomplish the show on time (in addition to working every Sunday).

Chandon became the papermaker and die cutter for over 200 recycled junkmail sheets of paper (Donna was a great assistance in getting the pulp ready and helping make the paper). Gary became the builder and worked with Lisa fashioning a wire nest then making the mailbox. Lisa became the nest builder and clothes & hair stylist for our birdwatchers. Chris became our junkmail bird maker, paper mache-r and photographer. Cindy became the ground bird finisher, bookbinder and birdwatchers mache-r.
We ran right down to the week of the show to get all the work done. Chandon and Gary engineered pre-hanging all the birds so installation could be easier. Gary & Cindy with the assistance of Donna, spent a few hours installing the show.
The arts coordinator told us that they never had a group collaborate for a show or a site specific installation at the space. He said that in the past, they encouraged artists to work together but most prefer to show their own work. I totally understand that but I think artists are missing out on a great experience working in collaboration with other artists.
The work got stronger and more interesting because of all the perspectives and the different strengths in the group. Spreading out the responsibility for conception, creation and execution, is actually a big relief. Plus, it was genuinely fun to hang out with all these artists for several Sundays in a row (who can forget the yummy fake Whinchell's donuts?). We can't wait to find a venue next year for a 2nd round of collaboration.

You can see online pictures of the show by clicking on any of the photos.