A Pass Around Art Show
Sometimes it is just good to do something totally different!
This idea went through the minds of Peter Herley, Nikki Millonzi, and Judy Schneider as they thought about how they would like to approach a three-person art show at the Café Nomad in Norway during March. Why not each start a painting and then pass it on to the next person? The next person would work on it after hearing what the first artist had in mind as they were painting. Each person could continue with the theme or take off in another direction. Finally, each piece would be entrusted to the third person to work on and potentially finish. If not finished, they could see who would like to do that or just keep passing it around. The one caveat was that there must be some bit of each artist’s work showing in the finished piece. All had to agree that the artwork was done. They passed 12 (12 x 12 in.) panels through this cycle over several weeks.
The three artists are friends and have shown their artwork together before. Although their styles are different, they felt they could carry on where each other left off and that the style differences would make for interesting counterpoints. This proved to be true.
While hanging the show, the artists reflected on their process and its evolution. Judy called the process “liberating” because it didn’t involve the ego. “I could use Peter’s color palette, which are colors I would never think of using. But it wasn’t ever easy. You have to be polite. You are working with someone else’s process. You don’t want to insult them or make changes. I had to be able to have that conversation and try to find how I fit into their processes. It was really interesting.”
Peter said: “There was no apprehension. I wasn’t worried about interpreting. I was just trying to add to what they were doing, to enhance . . . I also loved it when Judy took my words and made them more subtle so they worked better with the whole.”
Nikki had joined a writing group during the pandemic time. She incorporated some of her written lines into the visual artwork by scratching into a thick surface texture. She wrote about “big trees falling” in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. When Judy got the piece, she added elements that evoked trees. Things hidden in layers in the early versions came to the surface as the art was passed around.
Although this collaboration didn’t intentionally set out to combat the problems put in place by the pandemic, that was precisely what happened. “Isolation is hard when you only have yourself to talk to,” Judy commented. “The collaboration was rewarding in itself but also fed my other work.” For Peter, “It brought [him] into a whole new dimension.” He has started collaborating with other artists and now feels comfortable with this way of working. Reaching out to others is more important now than ever. The three are looking forward to continuing this way of working, going larger, and beyond.
Image at top: Peter Herley, Nikki Millonzi, and Judy Schneider, Don’t Go, mixed media on panel, 12 x 12 in., 2021.