In August 2015 I read about an experience of fellow OCA student Ingrid Booz Morejohn & felt immediately inspired. In short, artist P.Nosa from Tuscan Arizona was collaborating with visitors at a museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by asking for a sentence of no more than 5 words and spontaneously creating an artistic response using a sewing machine. Ingrid was visiting that day & took part, the image above is the result to her words “THIS IS ALL MY SHIT”.
I felt incredibly inspired by Ingrid’s experience & asked whether she had any plans to start a collaboration herself as I’d definitely be interested. I’d fallen completely for the spontaneity of P.Nosa’s project & especially with the added twist of a limited number of words. Ingrid wasn’t able to consider it at the time but would support me if I wanted to start something myself. So in September 2015 I posted on Facebook & the OCA Student Forum outlining the idea & waited. 5 artists responded enthusiastically, including Ingrid & so we were set to start.
The artists who joined me on this journey were Ingrid Booz Morejohn, Catherine Banks, Mark Butler, Alison Saunders & Bee Skelton. All of us being either current or ex-OCA students of various levels following different disciplines or degree pathways.
I wrote some guidelines, as much for myself as the others. In summary the challenge would be for each artist to decide on 5 words & send them to the other in the group. We would each create a postcard size piece of work inspired by each set of words as well as a response to our own words, so each artist would ideally create a total of 6 pieces of work, a combined potential total of 36. Everyone would post their work back to the artists whose words they’d been inspired from and in return would receive back 5 pieces of work based on their own original words.
Thinking back to the original idea I emphasised that artwork should be based our immediate reaction to each set of words, not overly thought out, but more a knee-jerk inspired piece. The media used was entirely at the artists discretion as was the amount of time spent. I also asked each artist to jot down any immediate thoughts they had when they saw everyone words for the first time & then also when they received work back from everyone in the group at the end.
THE WORK PRODUCED
‘It’s weighing on my mind’
words from Ingrid Booz Morejohn & the responses from each artist
‘Summer’s dying lines Autumn’s cloak’
words from Catherine Banks & the responses from each artist
‘Iron ore vein
words from Mark Butler & the responses from each artist
‘Fly away on gossamer wings’
words from Alison Saunders & the responses from each artist
‘Glimmer, rustle, fluttering, dart, quiet’
words from Bee Skelton & the responses from each artist
‘Whispering halfpenny water runs aimlessly’
words from Ange Mullins & the responses from each artist
I’ve been amazed at the dedication, helpfulness and continued enthusiasm throughout of all the artists so it’s with a smile I pass on my heartfelt thanks.
I’d like to mention a few things I’ve learnt from this collaboration.
Almost all of the artists including myself were conscious of their responses being overly literal. From my own experience I can say when I first read each set of words I generated a visual image which gave me a starting point for my work. Artists tend to be visual people for the most part & I suspect most can see an image in response to something like this, but after some discussion with non-artists friends I realise not everyone naturally see’s or thinks like this.
All of us thought about whether our work was adventurous enough or of high enough standard.
Each artist went about producing their responses in very different ways. Bee worked on one large-scale work which she then broke down into 4 separate pieces. Whereas I immediately began to puzzle out how to reproduce each piece of work, unconnected with any other piece. Catherine carried the words around in her head looking for that something special which described the response she’d experienced, taking photographs as she went. We all did things very differently to achieve the same goal & again I hadn’t appreciated how much variance there might be.
Looking at the images I can of course clearly see the general theme of the individual words running through each creation. But there’s also a very distinct style & a lovely spontaneity running which keeps each one as a successful stand alone piece of work.
Each one of us has emphasised how much we’ve enjoyed this experience, that we’ve made new friends, gained some lovely artwork in return & found a freshness in our own artistic practise as a result.
I wouldn’t hesitate to organise or participate in something like this again. Being an artist is often a very isolating experience & to feel connected to other artists all working on the same project was a tremendously positive experience.
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