In artist residencies sponsored by Bunnell Street Arts Center over the past few years, a clear pattern seems to have evolved:
• Invite a talented from some Lower 48 creative hive like Cleveland, Ohio, or New York City;
• Let them set up a studio in the gallery;
• Invite people to collaborate;
• Make a big mess and
• Do something really cool.
By the way things looked Monday afternoon, visiting Brooklyn, New York artist Jaimie Warren seems well on her way to the “invite people to collaborate” and “make a big mess” steps.
Slabs of cardboard laid on tables to be sliced into costume parts.
Strips of paper mache were ready to be molded into things like bark and barnacles.
Two students, Mila Stickrod, 18, a Flex School student, and Alex Franklin, 14, from Homer Middle School, had dropped by to help Warren craft her vision.
Pointing at a brown paper poster with drawings of masks, logs and rocks, Warren told them of her vision.
Playing on the theme of camouflage, they would make costumes like ghillie suits, except instead of twigs and leaves, the outfits would look like driftwood logs or jumbles of boulders.
“What will I turn into?” asked Franklin.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Warren said.
Warren, 37, grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and attended the Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri.
Through her group Whoop De Doo, she travels around the country creating and putting on shows for museums and festivals.
At a First Friday talk last week at Bunnell, Warren showed videos and slides of some of her past residencies.
All community performances, they usually develop around a theme.
One show had dancers going into a big freezer and coming out a few minutes later stiff and ice encrusted. Other productions turned into variety shows.
Sometimes Warren recreates living performances of classic paintings, sort of like that Gilmore Girls episode where Stars Hollow puts on the Festival of Living Art, except Warren amps up the silliness. Warren’s images not only move, they reinterpret and transform the painting, as she did with Matteo di Pacino’s “Saints Cosmas and Damien” imagined with pop stars.
Warren had walked around Bishop’s Beach for inspiration and noticed the jumbles of logs and boulders. She thought of a video performance filmed at the beach where people would be disguised to blend in with the natural setting.
Maybe someone could be a face peering up from the sand.
Franklin thought maybe a guy could be waving a metal detector and find a magic box that turned the logs into people.
He had a pair of monster hands that would make a good prop, Franklin said. Could they use that? Nope, Warren said.
“One of the rules is make everything. That’s the crux of my work,” she said. “Even if it looks terrible, it’s funny.”
At a workshop that started the project, Warren and some student volunteers watched YouTube videos for inspiration — cheesy science fiction and horror B movies, videos of people in ghillie suits and a really strange British TV show called Luxury Comedy.
They also discovered the concept of pareidolia, or seeing faces or patterns in inanimate objects like trees.
“There’s something kind of scary and gross and weird and thrilling about that,” Warren said. “…That stuff is trippy. It’s very bizarre.”
A child of the 1980s, Warren grew up watching Sesame Street, and other shows that had strange things coming to life like Marjorie the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock.
“A lot of inspiration in my work stems from things that terrified me as a child,” she said at her artist’s talk.
In workshops over spring break next week and through this month, Warren will work with students to develop the performance concept and make costumes and props.
She welcomes anyone to stop by Bunnell and spend a few hours helping — no experience necessary.
The project culminates in a video and display of the props to be show 6 p.m. March 22 at Bunnell Street Arts Center.
Warren also can use supplies like cardboard and newspaper, half-used cans of earth tone colored paint, paint brushes, hot glue guns, plastic cups and bowls, miscellaneous plain colored fabric, and snacks for helpers.
Stop by during regular hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, call or email Warren at 816-582-4066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.