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Volume 37 Issue 21 • Sept. 13 - 26, 2007
now in our 37th season

The Art of Collaboration

by Robert Frazier

When you think of collaboration in the fine arts, the mid-1980s painting collaborations between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat jump to mind, or the late 1920s assembled constructions of Pablo Picasso and sculptor Julio Gonzalez.  However, collaboration in the arts need not be that direct to be effective.  Frederic Brazille shared his studio and means with friends Monet and Renoir, and they ventured into figure painting en plein air together.  It is more in the spirit of Brazille that Sherre Wilson Rae posed the concept of the upcoming ‘Collaboration’ exhibition to the artists in her painting classes at the Artists Association of Nantucket.  They ran with it, spinning off their own thoughts on working together, and the results will be an inclusive show of work in many media that opens Friday, September 21 at the Joyce and Seward Johnson Gallery.

“Sherre brought up the possibility in a Wednesday night class,” recalls Elizabeth Sutherland. “We hit on the idea to get those involved with the association to participate.”

At first that meant Rae’s students and the students that take a range of courses at the AAN workshop, but it quickly evolved to everyone:  art patrons, staff, workshop teachers, the entire artist membership.  Rae will curate the show, and her committee from those Wednesday nights is comprised of Diane Asche, Chris Bourbeau, Julie Gifford, Julija Mostykanova, Liz Hunt O’Brien, Peggy Silverstein, Elizabeth Sutherland, and Susan Whelihan.  These nine women combine a wealth of experience.  Gifford and Whelihan have worked in the South Wharf and AAN galleries respectively, and Asche has worked as the assistant director at both.  Rae’s past efforts brought the Artist Association’s workshop program into the modern era, and O’Brien is the present director of that program.

“We each have input,” notes Sutherland, “but I think the concept was laid out early on in Sherre’s imagination.”

The mission statement for the show is focused and yet open:  “The intent of this exhibition is to create an installation comprised of multiple images of the same size.  As a true collaborative event, many individual works of art will take on a new life when they are combined and hung in a grid as one large work.  Many parts will create a new whole.”

At times referred to as the “10 x 10” exhibition, the participants can work in various media, but the finished works must be 10-inch squares.  One example by Julie Gifford is a tiny painting, about 2 inches long, mounted— where the processor chip would be—on a 10 x 10 computer motherboard.  Working outside the box, even when restricted to a specific square format, is highly encouraged.  Ideas appear more important than logistics.  The impetus seems to have been sparked when Sherre Rae took a residency at the famous Art Studio Center in the rustic woods of Johnson, Vermont.

“I’ve been fascinated,” says Rae, “with the notion of combining different people’s work to create a whole.  At the Studio Center I marked out a grid on a big canvas and got other artists to deal with their own portion.”

“Also,” adds Rae, “my painting class works so well together that I thought it might be great to get them involved in hanging an exhibition.  Learning that part of the artistic thing.”

“The hanging,” says Diane Asche, “will become an art form of its own.  The art works will lend themselves to how we present the show.”

And beyond that, the show committee sees the experience as a way to get more people involved in the gallery.  A way to strengthen the role of collaborative thought in an association of artists.  Rae refers to this as “jumping into someone else’s idea.”

After all, Brazille jumped in…he posed in Monet’s outdoor figure painting “Le Dejeuner sur l’Herb.”

“Collaboration” gets an opening reception on September 21 from 6 to 8 pm at the Artists Association of Nantucket, at their gallery at 19 Washington Street.  The show runs through Oct.1 with gallery hours, daily 10 am to 6 pm.

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