(Note: I am newly retired. The 2015-16 school year, which began the day AFTER Labor Day, marked the first time in nearly 20 years that I was not in the classroom at the beginning of the new school year. Here is the next part of what will be a continuing series: “Life After Work(ing).”)
As I look back over the last two weeks of ArtPrize (I’m not as motivated to write everyday as I was the first couple of weeks), I will admit that nothing happened to top my “conversation” with the lady who claims to have seen aliens outside her apartment. But I’ve met a lot of other interesting people.
Let’s start with the most recent, then work our way back to the beginning.
On my final day of volunteering as a Wayfinder — a term I think would better describe our job is FindWayer — I was standing on the street corner just outside the HopCat bar. As her boyfriend/husband/partner went inside to check on possible reservations, young woman (mid-20s, maybe?) approached me to ask a couple of questions: that’s why we wear the “Ask Me” bibs, duh. She had with her a smallish dog on a leash, a cute little thing with light brown features on the face and head that blended into off white back toward the body. I asked her what type of dog he was and she told me he was a Rat Terrier, Shih Tzu mix named Ozzie. I mentioned how I thought that was an interesting mix and she pointed to her partner and told me that “he likes to call him a Rat Shit.” That was sort of like the joke when a bulldog mated with a Shih Tzu and the resulting mixed breed was called BullShit. He laughed; she looked confused. He explained. She laughed.
The day before I was asked to monitor the site where the eventual winner, a piece called “Whisper” was on display. Essentially, the art was a group of dinner tables placed end-to-end with many place settings occupying spaces on the tables. There were wires attached to the undersides of the tables and hooked up to a single microphone in the middle of the room. The object was to whisper into the microphone, which in turn would cause the tables to vibrate. But if you talked loudly or shouted, nothing would happen. The artist explained that even by whispering, our words had power and that power could be generated into sound waves which, in turn, would cause the tables to vibrate and shake the plates and glasses to the floor.
Viewers quickly learned that making the “P” sound into the microphone would be the best way to set the art work into motion and after a while, all the vibrations and subsequent crashes got really noisy. About an hour into my shift, I moved up to the third floor and asked a girl if she would like to change places; she said “sure.” So we did.
The third floor was quieter, what with all the pieces up there consisting mostly of twine, string and/or macramé and needlepoint. One piece I really liked contained 50 small — about 6 inches by 6 inches — needlepoint drawings titled “50 People I Love But Don’t Know.” They included Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, comic strip character Little Lulu, “an anonymous 3rd century musician, Hank Williams and Mr. Toad.
To generate some thought and conversation, I asked visitors:” “If you made this piece, give me at least five names or people you would include in your’s.” One gal’s choices really stood out; she picked President Lincoln, President Reagan, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe and Ghandi. Off the top of my head I came up with: my grandfather, who died four years before I was born on his birthday, Freddie Mercury (late lead singer for Queen) and Larry from the Three Stooges. Oh, and James Earl Jones and baseball player Ty Cobb. Is it odd that four of my five choices are dead?
I did one day at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum where six of the Top 20 public-voting finalists were located. One of them was NOT a large sculpture called “The Desecration of Christ.” It was interesting (again, look it up on the ArtPrize web page at .org), but I’m wondering if some of the people were turned off by the artist himself. He was from Iowa, which had nothing to do with it, but at one point he came over by me and another volunteer and complained that not a single person had voted for him in the last 30 minutes, “but they’re all taking my cards.” I tried to tell him that taking a card does not equal a vote and that he should be encouraged by the fact that so many people were stopping. I don’t think he was.
If I recall, I only voted for one piece and that was at the Catholic Diocese located at the corner of Wealthy Street and Division Avenue. Illy (my wife) and I spent a couple of hours “doing” ArtPrize on a Saturday afternoon and I think I voted for it more because it had colors that would match up with our living room décor more than the fact I liked the piece as an ArtPrize entry. We did meet one artist we liked who used pieces of rice paper to design little stick figures showing different fashions from different countries. She didn’t have anything representing Cuba, my wife’s birthplace, but she did point to a very dark stick figure from Columbia, suggesting “that’s pretty close, no?” Um, no.
So, ArtPrize is over, except for the shouting and I’m seriously considering entering again next year. A chat with an artist the other day who thanked moe for volunteering made me realize how much fun I had the two years I was in it. I believe if you go to the ArtPrize web page and do a search for my name, I’m still in the system. I didn’t enter to win, but I like to try to show off my creativity and my photography. I’ve got a couple of ideas. I might share them later. One of them involves tape-recording my farts and re-recording them on a continuous loop for continuous playback at the push of a button. Illy totally rejected that idea. We’ll see.