CEC ArtsLink, an international arts organization, is sending Public Art Curator, Kendal Henry and Artist, Luisa Caldwell to the City of Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Kendal and Luisa will conduct workshops and lectures with students and young artists at the Krasnoyarsk Museum Centre and at local schools. These workshops and conversations will culminate into collaborative public art project(s) which will be unveiled on June 13, as part of the City Day celebrations. This Blog documents their journey.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

NATURE BOX pix & project summary



“Nature Box” is a collaborative temporary public sculpture installation made completely of reclaimed paper, cut and modeled, then wheat pasted onto the existing surface of a dilapidated old building. Inspired by the beauty of the garden in which this old building is situated, and the choice to use only reclaimed paper materials such as newspapers and magazines we began on a creative journey that started a bit rocky and disjointed and unsure. Through the process of collaboration and idea exchange we were able to develop a unified concept and the artwork resulted in a cohesive and successful work of art.

My own goal was to incorporate my approach to working in the realm of temporary public art- and that is to apply paper onto outdoor building structures. It was very important for me to come and demonstrate how something beautiful can be made out of pretty much valueless materials. I wanted to cover the building in a page from a newsprint flier of which Christina located hundreds of copies. This newsprint page was advertising wooden garden type structures built in the traditional Siberian domestic architectural style. By having many of these pages with pictures formatted in squares and rectangles, through repetition a pattern was established which looked a lot like brick work.

This notion provoked a very negative reaction and the word “paint” kept being introduced. I’m like “why paint?, you already know what paint can do”. Finally at a point during our first workshop discussions Andrew said, “They have come all this way to work with us, why don’t we trust them”. So it was decided, we would begin by covering the building in this paper. I promised if they hated it we could change it.

Did they hate it? Hardly. They loved it- we loved it. The pattern worked particularly well from a distance. The most vocal doubters were the ones most impressed with the transformation. Plus it is fun to do, to witness on the scale of architecture something change so drastically with such simple means. I asked if they were enjoying the process. I can’t remember who said it but someone responded, “it isn’t everyday we get to cover a building in paper.

People brought in sketches on how to continue from here. There were a lot of book references because the building was situated on the grounds of a teachers college; Alex wanted to do a more political statement by depicting factories. Eugene’s idea to use the windows and doors as portals to other realities was the most conceptually tight given the nature of the building, plus having designated “canvases” helped with the organization
of the overall composition and was site specific. It was difficult steering people away from new unrelated ideas and keeping us on track- but not impossible.

We basically established an idea of nature conquering and taking over. What began with the notion of pastoral landscapes placed into the window and door frame turned into an opportunity for each person to contribute collaged elements in his or her own style, enough so we could compose them together and motifs would be repeated through out what we do together. Dimitri, a professional artist working mostly commercially really wanted to do a tree and pushed for it unrelentlessly to the point we agreed that it did fit conceptually but he would have to confine it to and around the door area instead of right smack on the corner, as he would have liked. This decision also was based on the fact that it would be made of paper mache and would be more protected inside the deep recess of the door.

Elements were brought in of all sorts, including a pair of kissing flowers; being big, bright and colorful they matched well with my own super colorful flowers. Maria made lovely mandalas all in whites which lended a very nice tranquility here and there to a very lively composition. Alex really wanted a factory, okay we said as long as it can be depicted being taken over by nature- a great added message to our concept. Masha a young fine artist who paints as well as does experimental performance art with other artists rendered it to Alex’s specifications. Sasha wanted to incorporate a cat that he would make at home. “Make it work”, I said- and he did.
Dimitri went at his tree solo on site until we added leaves, which everyone cut and applied. But at one point, because he used the same paper that we covered the building with it was this strange morphing image, the tree and building being one and the same. I loved this image and felt it would have stood on its own as opposed to being painted realistically as the initial consensus was. To integrate the tree more fully into the rest of our piece, we decided on a transparent brown wash, which revealed the patterned newsprint underneath, with added paper leaves attached it became more generally accessible to a public not yet exposed to contemporary public art.

It was such an interesting process; we lived and acted out a creative thinking process- from a general notion to a successful and finished product.

On a personal level, the experience of working with these young, creative and intelligent Siberians was an opportunity of a lifetime. I am so impressed by their commitment and energy- I would have taken them all home with me. I hope to stay in contact with them (Facebook helps!) Because I want to see where their lives take them! There is so much potential!

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