When attending shows it is common to walk away with little more than a piece of ephemera and a new art experience. Instead of offering the usual experience, the 13 artists in Of Us at Mess Hall each crafted different forms of exchange, inviting everyone there to walk away with hand-made or artist-harvested tokens. I left with a fast-food map, a felt cell phone, a hand-wrapped piece of candy, some clay straight from Georgia, a photo-postcard, a couple of sketches, a golden ticket and glue under my fingernails.
Very attuned to the spirit of the season and current topics of conversation, Of Us was clearly exploring methods of distribution, the ways we communicate and interact with one another, communal creation and a type of artistic and confidential generosity. What I found most telling about the ways each of these artists tackled these ideas was the different directions they took them. There were different levels of intimate information offered (or not) by the artists and requested from the audience. Morgan Bussy had hand-wrapped candies for the taking that revealed bits of information about herself when you opened them, while Kristin Mazur asked the audience to share with her a highly personal memory and understanding of home. Others turned the eye away from themselves altogether in an attempt to get the Mess Hall community to collaborate with one another and create something together. Caryn Ann Bendrick’s Communal Collage and Angie Consalov’s Community Collaboration turned both of these artists to facilitators of creation rather than the creators themselves.
If nothing else, Of Us was an exercise for artist and audience alike to question and decide how involved, revealing, voyeuristic or detached they would like to be when asked to take part in activities around communication, community, distribution and exchange. Or it could just be seen as a spark that attempts to ignite the giver that may or may not be in all of us.
Of Us opened at Mess Hall on December 9, 2011. For more information visit the Mess Hall website at http://messhall.org.
Featured Artists: Sevgi Aka; Andrea Alonge; Caryn Ann Bendrick; Morgan Bussy; Taylor Compton; Angie Consalvo; Gabby Frasca; Liana Li; Kristin Mazur; Maxx Sentowski; Darcy Terrell; Victoria Thurmond; Sarah Weber.