By Joshua Herring
At KU’s student-run art gallery, Eckhaus, Erika Stearly will be exhibiting her interactive painting installation called “Take a Painting.” The exhibition features 1,000 paintings thumbtacked to a wall with instructions indicating to help yourself to a piece of artwork.
After an expected ten hours for installation on Saturday, Nov. 1, Stearly’s exhibition will be revealed Sunday, Nov. 2 with an opening reception at the gallery from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Co-director of Eckhaus, Breann Young, says this installation is the one she is the most excited for.
“The community has the opportunity to come in and take paintings they like and replace them with ones they create at the gallery. It’ll be a great interactive experience,” said Young.
According to Stearly, “Take a Painting” presents an opportunity to use gallery space to create works of art without any pressure. She wanted to counter the reputation that paintings have for being a precious fine art object.
“I try to paint everyday because it’s fun and I want to share that with people,” said Stearly.
The project began with an assignment during her graduate work at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. According to Stearly, she was required to make 100 drawings over the course of a semester. Yet, after creating drawings with sharpies, watercolor, glue, food dye and some other non-traditional materials, something was still missing. When this happens in her studio practice, Stearly says she has a rule:
“I can’t make it any worse, so I do something drastic.”
In this case, Stearly cut stacks of her own drawings into little pieces and posted them outside an elevator with instructions for people to help themselves. Her drastic act for improvement became the fledgling idea for “Take a Painting.”
“I am interested in how the community responds to the project since Kutztown has such a strong Visual Art and Art Education department,” said Stearly.
In the past, Stearly says she has been impressed by enthusiastic responses. She has seen paintings tucked in people’s wallets, hanging on refrigerators and even embellished and returned to her. Eventually, one girl asked Stearly how to create her own paintings, fostering the idea to invite people to make paintings in the gallery in order to sustain the installation.
“At the end there will be a show of Kutztown’s own work, creating a transformation from showcasing a single artist to all of the artists inside of us from the community,” says Danielle Kristich, Young’s co-director.
According to Stearly, it doesn’t matter if you can’t draw. “This exhibit is meant to reject the idea that painting is so philosophically dense that only rich, educated people can understand it,” said Stearly.
While surrounded by her project, Stearly hopes that people will “feel confident about the way they engage with works of art.”
For more information about the project or Stearly herself, visit erikastearly.com. “Take a Painting” is sponsored by the Black Rock Arts Foundation.