Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Three Directions No Waiting

This was one incredibly full day as you will soon find out.

One of the things we had built into this project was that we had time set aside everyday in the studio space to present Painting with Music Workshops. From nearly day one, we saw that this was going to be difficult. We really felt like this was an important part of the project as we wanted to be in touch with the community as much as possible. I talking to Alpha Bruton, the chief curator for the Phantom Gallery, we expressed our want to do some workshops. Alpha had made some calls and while she couldn't get a group to the space this day, she did arrange for us to go to Chicago Christian Alternative Academy, a charter school at Pulaski and Roosevelt.

This school is in a serious neighborhood. The school itself is a small building that looks a bit like a school once you are inside and past the metal detector, but it is too small to actually have always been a school. But it functions quite well as one and as far as we could see it is a good thing it is there.

We showed up and unloaded our gear. Tali was escorted with our stuff to the art room while I went in search of a parking place that I hoped I would find my Yukon in when we were done.

We fully expected this to be a tough crowd, and when we walked in and introduced ourselves we were not sure at all what would happen. The teachers told us they were not sure how things would go either so we simply decided whatever will be will be.

We were amused and surprised when we were told by the teachers that these kids, that were all between about 15 and 18, would not want to get their hands in the paint and would require rubber gloves if there was a chance the paint would get on their hands. When we started, the kids didn't know that we would eventually end up working with finger paint. LOL!

This is why they have to wear gloves to paint.
Ok so the workshop starts off with Mozart, as soon as it began, the teacher looked around to see what the reaction might be. These kids don't know Mozart she said. The reaction was slow, but at least it was positive.

Now, we were told that we had 50 minutes and that  we were the last activity of their half day of school that day that got out at 11.30. We started at about 9.30 and by the time we finished at 10.30, they didn't want to leave. They said, can we do more? So we just kept putting on music and getting out more paper and paint and they continued on till they had to leave. 

It was amazing to see the transformation of these students. It was great to see them play. We were all having so much fun that other students stuck their heads in the door to see what was happening and we even had some other teachers join in. One teacher said after being there only about 10 minutes, "I came to work stressed out today and in a bad mood. Now, I can tell it is going to be a good day."

After cleaning up, and getting all our things back into the Yukon, which was still there and in tact we drove back up north to 2515 N. Milwaukee Ave. As we drove we were both in a bit of a shock from what we had just experienced.

Heading North.
It is really something how art and music has a way of calming the savage beast and it is indeed a common language that all of us can speak and communicate with quite nicely.

We arrived back to our studio by 1pm and we excited about seeing in the light of day the large painting we did, or rather started last night with Marbin. We had already discussed between ourselves that neither one of us felt like that painting was finished yet. But we also had no idea what to do about that. Would it mean that we would just gesso over it and start over or would it mean that we work on it some more. Either way, we knew that we were stepping into a place that we had never really been before with any of the art work we had done in the past.

What we started the night before with Marbin.
This notion of going back into a painting for us launched us into a huge discussion about what  we wanted it to be. What could it be? What should it be? How should we approach this? No matter how or what we already knew that compared to how we typically work, and compared to how we started this painting, that what we were about to do would be a set of calculated moves. This again was unsettling.

Tali starting back into it.

At least we had bought a CD from Marbin so we had their music to work with. We decided that we would each work on the painting separately while the other one watched on. This was not an easy task. I put the music on and Tali took the first swipe at the painting. Listening the music of Marbin made it easy to get back in a place that we pretty close to where we were the night before. When Tali was done I took a few stabs at it.

We talked a lot about the movement and the flow of the piece, the lights and the darks and where your eyes were taken. It was a conversation that was as serious as we have ever had about art. We both felt like we had so much at stake here.  Bottomline, we wanted to end up with a painting we were happy with, not only that, we both knew that what we had was a really good start that was completely inspired. No pressure there.

So, we painted and talked, and argued and painted some more until we could agree that we would do no more.

We moved the painting we now call Marbin to the south wall, and when we saw it there and could really look at it... Well, we didn't really have words other than we were both collectively afraid of what that painting represented.

Marbin on the wall.
Would be able to ever make a painting like it again? We knew we wanted to, but could we? This, by the way, are still some questions we talk about from time to time.

Tonight was set to be our artist reception, and it was. Finally the weather had broke and it was actually warm. So much so that we were happy about having the door open. Until now we had it open so that passers by could see there was something going on, but it had been so cold that it also was a bit ridiculous that we had the door open.

People streamed in most of the evening. By this time as was our hope we had a quite a bit of art on the walls, so that anyone that came by could certainly see that we had been painting.

The steady flow of visitors stopped at about 7pm when while we were standing around talking several gunshots were fired directly outside the door of our studio. I think I counted six shots. Well this changed the flavor of the evening rather immediately. Prior to the shots, Margaret Larkin  a Facebook friend, originally someone we knew from Deviantart was there, and an old American Academy of Art classmate of mine, Jackie Karng Gwynne.  I had not see or heard from Jackie say some 30 years, so it was really great to be able to catch up with her and talk about all the places we have been in the last many years.

When the bullets started flying, we closed the door. That seemed like the most obvious thing to do and moved away from anything that was like a window. Alpha called the police and Tali said, "I was not expecting this, I didn't think this would happen." Tali was visibly shaken.

Eventually we relaxed, but not before the police drove by at 30mph about 20 minutes later. They never stopped, I guess they are not interested in being shot either. At that point Margaret thought it was safe to go so she ran across the street and sped off into the night as fast as she could.

So there we sat in our cavernous cavern, Tali, Alpha and I. We tried to break the mood a little by making some  funny comments about what just happened or may have happened. About the time we felt more relaxed there was a knock at the door and that was in fact a cause for alarm.  Eventually Alpha went to the door and who was it but Tali's childhood penpal Bill and his wife Karen. We brought them in and closed the door. We told them the story of the gunshots. Karen said she heard people talking about gunshots as they walked towards our place, but Bill and Karen thought they must have been talking about years ago when this block of North Milwaukee Ave. was gunshot central, and back then a lot of the shots hit people.

Bill and Tali
It was great to be able to show Bill and Karen all the work we had done so far, and soon things picked up and there were more people strolling in again, like nothing had happened. Luckily no one was shot, and chances are the shots were just someone's over-exuberant  reaction to the warm weather.

Art openings can be a lot of things and we have learned over time that just about anything can happen and that will continue to be the case, but I wouldn't mind if that was the last one we have with gunfire.

©2011 The Colorboration Project is the property of Tali Farchi and Royce Deans. 

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