Tag Archives: Ashton Bird

A Written Record of A Human Record

Seeing A Human Record, for me, was like drinking good whiskey. Nostalgia and just the right amount of philosophical possibility served up in a mattress-wrapped glass. I couldn’t forget the installation because it felt like I had stepped into someone else’s memories for a minute, just to find hints of my own.

To the artist, Ashton Bird, A Human Record  was kind of like an abandoned house. And after spending time with the painted mattresses and wallpaper peeling away from the structure in layers, one viewer told the installation’s curator, Sarah Odens, that it felt like “Post Apocalyptic Princess and the Pea”.

At the forefront of the installation Ashton crafted mattress-sized structures out of lumber and stacked them vertically, separated by the top layer of a mattress. He called it the filing cabinet, where “anonymous histories…[are] on file”.

4G7A2027

Just past that, a sort of walkway lined in salvaged pallets led to an open white space, ceilinged with reclaimed lumber.

4G7A2025

Rounding the corner again led to a space with painted mattresses lining its sides.

4G7A2026

Mattresses and Paint

Let me tell you about those mattresses.

Pre-install, they looked like a stack of twenty in a mattress recycle store in Sioux Falls. The employees had collected them for Ashton and intoned a pseudo-apology by saying, “we tried to pick the clean ones for you”. Thing is, used mattresses have a certain…scent about them, because a chunk of a lifespan has been spent on them. Both artist and gallery didn’t want the scent of a used mattress wafting through the space, so Ashton gave them a thorough, sanitizing wash and then the health inspector looked them over.

Why mattresses? Let’s back up and I’ll tell you the story.

Once upon a time Ashton was working in the Habsburg Exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where he stared at a few tapestries on a daily basis. Those tapestries indicate a family’s lineage, and that sparked a thought: “Hey, I wonder if I could make an anonymous lineage of people’s history?”

4G7A2029
This is Ashton.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Minneapolis, a woman decided, for unknown reasons, to relocate her mattress. By the time she’d lugged it out of her apartment, Ashton was at the Vietnamese restaurant right next to her apartment complex and he caught a glimpse of her. He said that both the woman and the mattress she was carrying looked a little tired and worn. Kinda like a pet can start to look like its owner.

He was a senior at Minnesota State University at the time, where he started out as a ceramicist. His professors pushed him to integrate outside media with clay until “eventually clay became just a material…like a painter. A painter can paint with anything. So…I can make art with anything, and then just making a composition with that, so it’s still interesting to look at, but combines things in kind of unexpected ways.”

Like combining salvaged lumber with recycled mattresses? Yes, of course.

The Little Gallery

Kara Dirkson is the director of the Visual Arts Center at the Washington Pavilion, and she’s just as cool as her title. She says one of the benefits of the Corner Gallery is the lack of windows and its darker wall color. See, the gallery used to be a study room. But a name change and a wall demolition later and the Pavilion had gained an intimate studio right off of the Everist Gallery.

Ashton wanted to utilize the intimacy of the space by making the focal point “just me putting my energy on the mattresses,” so he painted them. “But then it turned too carnival, and then it looked like insanity…I didn’t want that. So I went through and whitewashed it to kinda tone it down,” which ultimately made room for a “kind of spiritual [feel]”.

Spiritual or commemorative, Kara pointed out that mattresses themselves record a large part of our personal histories. “All those aspects of our bodies that get absorbed into these odd things…[Ashton’s] kind of exposing them and putting them in our face.” So it makes sense that a number of conversations Ashton’s had with people at the exhibit revolve around “this reminds me of…” type of comments.

And that art has gotten people talking. Sarah says that’s quite the feat. “Because starting a conversation with art is hard, and I’m sure that that’s something you hope for…the magic of contemporary art that hasn’t been put into a historical canon is that there’s still a lot to debate and talk about it.” And Kara says those conversations are what the Pavilion hopes for with the exhibits they house in the Corner Gallery.

Now That it’s Over

When A Human Record came down, Ashton rolled it up and took it back to Tallahassee with him where his next work of art is grad school. He says he’s gravitating towards creating work with a “dreamy, dreamscape feeling” now.

I hope you got a chance to see it friends, and if you didn’t I hope Dan Thorson’s pictures in this post help dry your tears. And don’t forget to check back in a couple weeks, because I’ll be venturing back to the Pavilion to wander its galleries and tell you about their new exhibits.

Until next time.

Kaitlynn_JAM-Profile-Signature

 

DanT_JAM-Profile-Signature

The Pavilion at this Moment in December

Hey friends, and happy South Dakota winter! It can get mighty cold here on the prairie, can’t it?

If you wanna warm up your insides, I recommend checking out the art that the Washington Pavilion has on display at the moment. (A little while ago I did a post about what was up then, so I’ll spend more time on the new stuff. That article is here).

Ok, so let me give you the tour. I’ll start with the main floor, which the Pavilion calls the Second Floor on its Visual Arts Center handout, and I’ll also divide it up by gallery.

Cool. Let’s get started.

Continue reading The Pavilion at this Moment in December

Around and About – Studio 301

Studio 301 at the Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center

10AM – 5PM Live Art Making

10:15AM Story time with Hector Curriel in the Children’s Studio

6PM – 9PM Art Reception and Celebration

8PM Live Music with Thomas Hentges of Burlap Wolf King

Studio 301 started off as an idea in 2010 by Justin Schleep and TJ Donovan. Originally called “Take the Day,” this event is a one-of-a-kind experience in Sioux Falls. At this yearly art making event, artists set up studio spaces and create while being watched and interacting with the public. Many artists have stayed committed to the growth and change through the years of the event. It has become a networking event for visitors and artists alike, making it truly an art & community extravaganza.

The Visual Arts Center worked with and listened to local artists while planning this year’s event.  Two artists were contacted to be liaisons for the Visual Arts Center: Jeff Ballard and Michelle St. Vrain. Their job was to Continue reading Around and About – Studio 301