“I gotta eat, I gotta drink, I gotta create. If I’m not doing that, I’m not me.”
“I start to paint, and to me, the beauty is what survives.”
“You know you did your job if you get a reaction.”
Getting inside the minds of artists, how they work and how they think, is the heart of a new multimedia exhibition at 701 Center for Contemporary Art.
“25 Artists,” a film project by Columbia filmmaker Wade Sellers, is a peek into the creative processes of 25 local artists.
The gallery-wide installation – on display through Sunday, Feb. 26 – has 25 mounted monitors, each with a set of headphones. The monitors play short, looping videos of artist interviews interspersed with images of their work.
On one screen, fabric artist Susan Lenz talks about her fondness for using found materials (“anything that had a life before it”) while on another screen, self-taught artist Michael Krajewski describes the joy of painting with his fingers (“It gives it a totally different look and feel to the canvas when you spread it on with just your flesh”).
The overall effect is like taking a museum audio tour, but with the bonus of having the artists themselves tell you what their work is about. It feels intimate.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for anyone who’s ever had questions about why artists do what they do and what they do to create the work they create. It gives them a good intro to how artists think,” Sellers said.
When he began the project, Sellers selected artists whose work he liked or artists he wanted to meet. Then he conducted interviews in a spontaneous fashion – no prepared questions.
The main thing I was shocked about was how open they were, how willing they were to talk about why they do what they do.
“I didn’t do any research beforehand, other than looking at their work,” he said. “The main thing I was shocked about was how open they were, how willing they were to talk about why they do what they do. That’s at the heart of the whole project.”
After each interview, Sellers added background music for each artist, selecting something that reflected their personality or how they approached their work.
For Lucas Sams, a young painter with a segmented thought process, Sellers chose electronic, computerized noises. “That seemed appropriate for him,” he said.
For abstract artist Bonnie Goldberg, the bluesy rock guitar track reflects the music she likes to listen to while working. “In talking about when she creates her work, she sometimes paints with red wine and drinks red wine, and she’ll play that sort of music,” Sellers said.
After picking music, he edited the videos down to a bite-sized minute or less, which allows viewers to hit all of the videos without getting fatigued.
“You have the freedom as a viewer to hop around as you wish. There’s no order, no rules. You go up to the TV, put on the headphones and watch one.”
If you go
WHEN: Now through Sunday, Feb. 26. An artist conversation will be 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12.
WHERE: 701 Center for Contemporary Art, 701 Whaley St., second floor. During exhibitions, hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.
Eileen Blyth, Jarid Lyfe Brown, Michaela Pilar Brown, James Busby, Michael Cassidy, Stephen Chesley, Thomas Crouch, Jeff Donovan, Mary Gilkerson, Bonnie Goldberg, Michael Krajewski, Matthew Kramer, Whitney LeJeune, Susan Lenz, Dre Lopez, Laurie McIntosh, John Monteith, Lucas Sams, Alex Smith, Kirkland Smith, Laura Spong, Anna Redwine, Cedric Umoja, Mike Williams and David Yaghjian.