Friday, May 8, 2009

Art Wars

Each year at ECA, the visual arts department students were required to complete one two dimensional class, one three dimensional class and one media class. For one of the quarters, you could do any of those a second time.

The problem here was that if you took two media classes and a two dimensional class then only one three dimensional class was offered, then you were stuck. My senior year that's precisely what happened in the third quarter.

Almost all of the seniors had taken the nude art class. Many of my friends and I took a video class after that. Since we couldn't do video twice, a lot of us got stuck with a mixed media design class in which we all work with the dance department for their upcoming recital. For some reason, the visual artists and dancers did not get along. It was just two different kinds of kids. Smiling, outgoing dancers and moody, cynical artists were not meant to befriend each other.

One time I was carrying a bucket of paint down the hall and a dancer, who happened to be flamboyantly swinging his arms, knocked into my bucket. He saw the tiny amount of paint that had gotten on his hand and began snapping at me that I better watch where I'm going and continued skipping down the hall. I just stared and waited for him to leave so I could laugh.

The goal of the class was for the dancers to create the choreography while we, the visual artists made costumes, set pieces and props. There were no real rules - the dancers would work with what we gave them. The paint bucket guy was in the class and I could not wait to make him look stupid.

The first costume idea was to have them look like flying squirrels. Full arm to leg leotards were equipped with excess spandex that was attached at the wrists and ankles. When the performer lifted their arms or kicked out their legs, the fabric would created a winged appearance.

One set piece involved giant plastic rectangles. Large wood frames were made with clear plastic wrap surrounding them. A performer would enter through a slit in the narrow side and push around the giant box from one end of the stage to the other.

For set design, I took large sheets of cardboard and cut them out free hand to create random animal shapes. Once they were done, I outlined them and painted them in a color that was not exactly spot on. There was a maroon monkey and a teal armadillo with a silver head. These were tied on strings and hung from the catwalks above the stage.

On the subject of the catwalks, the biggest and most outrageous piece dealt with that as well. My friend Trevor sketched an 10 foot robot that was hung from the grid above the stage. I'd say that 75% of it was the robot torso. The dancer would put on these wire framed pants and climb into the bottom of the robot, making the legs tiny in comparison. The robot had two 6 foot long arms that swung on pulleys which were also controlled by us from above.

I'm sure there was more to the class than that, but I remember this as the culmination of the departmental rivalry. The recital actually got canceled because of a blizzard and when it was rescheduled for a Sunday afternoon and I didn't even go. From what I heard, almost nobody did.

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