When I get an idea stuck in my head, I tend to go overboard.
Maybe it's the company I keep. I have friends who, when they decide to preserve the bounty of summer, can 100 pounds of tomatoes. Another renders his own lard in 5 pound batches so that he will never be without. Yet another spit roasts pigs and lambs in his backyard for parties.
When asked to display my Burning Man photos at today's "Heat the Street Faire" in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco, I got a little carried away. It started out simple. I figured I'd choose my 20 favorites, print them as 8 x 10's, tape them to a wall at the fair, and be done with it. Then I got an email from the organizers inquiring what the title of my "art installation" was. "Art installation?" I laughed. "That's a mighty highfalutin' term for a few photos stuck to a wall." I decided to play along. I responded that my installation would be called "Phoenix Rising," after my blog post that described my Burning Man experiences.
Over the course of the next few days, the phrase "art installation" churned around and around in my gray matter like a batch of gelato. "I suppose I really ought to make some sort of backdrop to mount the photos on. Cardboard? Nah, too flimsy. Maybe plywood? Ooo, I should paint it black to show off the photos better!" Gradually, as the days progressed, my vision snowballed. The result is what you see pictured above: 3 plywood panels each 8 feet high by 4 feet wide painted black. Spanning the panels are a white silhouette of a phoenix rising out a fire.
My inspiration was street art. I've always loved the freedom of expression found in murals, graffiti, and stencils. Graffiti artists are the bloggers of the art world.
The one graffiti artist I had ever met told me he favored European spray paints because of their vivid range of colors. I did a little research and discovered that one of the top brands was Montana paints made in a town just outside of Barcelona. Barcelona?! You know how much I love my BCN! How could I resist? I quickly ordered a bunch of cans online from an importer based practically in my backyard.
After I received my paints, I transformed my future restaurant space into an art studio. People, if you ever want a good release, grab a few cans of spray paint, crank up the beat box, channel your Inner Vandal, and get down and dirty. Having that much fun should be illegal!
My experiment resulted in two revelations. First, spray paint fumes cause a wicked high. There's a reason graffiti is done outdoors. Second, I gained a renewed respect for the mastery of graffiti artists. While I'm completely thrilled with my first attempt, I am definitely a "toy," the derisive term expert "writers" call us novices. But, hey, it's all about the journey, not the end result, right?
And remember what Martha Graham said. "You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open."
If you live in the Bay Area, come to today's Heat the Street Faire and check out my playful experiment up close and personal. It will be displayed
near the Mariposa Street stage at the corner of 20th and Indiana Streets from noon until midnight. There will also be lots of art from the Playa, plenty of DJ's working their magic, and boys and girls donning their finest Playa wear.