Bag o’ goodies

MÁNÁS sets the creative spirit loose with open-entry show

Goat checks out art junk, and (inset) displays his ashes of junk in a jar (“Cinefactus”).

Goat checks out art junk, and (inset) displays his ashes of junk in a jar (“Cinefactus”).

The “Bag O’ Junk” Show, on display at MÁNÁS through Sept. 21.
MÁNÁS Art Space
1441-C Park Ave.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 12-5 p.m.

“Art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can only be explored by those willing to take risks.”

This quote by painter Mark Rothko is written across a strip of white paper, cut into sections, and laid out in a broken line running up Pat Macias’ mixed-media collage, “Risking Everything,” and it was a nice sentiment to hold onto—the spirit of adventuring into the unknown—before diving into the diverse collection of works during the colorful, bustling opening reception for MÁNÁS Art Space’s The “Bag O’ Junk” Show last Friday night, Aug. 10.

All of the work in the open-entry show was created using (and/or inspired by) items from the individual bags-o-junk distributed by the gallery. Each bag cost $5, and each contained a different collection of random items. One can only guess how Macias’ bag (#90) figured into her piece. Was the picture of aviation explorer Amelia Earhart included in the bag? Was the tiny mesh bag with the Earhart picture inside, or the tiny baby doll arm holding it part of the package? Or was the Rothko quote the impetus?

That’s the beauty of this kind of show. In addition to the variety of the contents of the different bags-o-junk, and the variety of the different mediums at play in an open group show, there is infinite variety in the number of ways the junk could have prompted inspiration. And not knowing what was/wasn’t part of the bag added to the mystery of how the works came into being.

Some were self-explanatory, like Jocelyn Glatthaar’s “Cambiar”—a basket/nest woven from a roll of red 16mm film with a big egg-shaped rock nesting in it—or Nicole Mercedes Brereton’s four flowing, multi-colored plant-like sculptures inspired by the “found sculpture” in her bag. Others were more mysterious, like one of the most pulled-together pieces in the show (as would be expected with this setup, not all were fully realized pieces), Brittney Thomas’ “House of Grain,” a tiny, sculpture featuring a little birdhouse and scary-looking, blood-splattered detritus from what I imagined as a bird murder-torture scene—tiny feathers, doll hands, mini scissors, a metal pulley, etc.

One of my favorite’s was Goat’s “Cinefactus” (Latin for “reduced to ashes”), a simple jar filled with the black ashes of his burned bag of junk sitting on a shelf.

As we looked up at her papier-mâché “Junkman Ascending” hanging from the ceiling, local textile artist Muir Hughes made the observation that these open-entry shows are great for bringing a wide variety of local people out to a gallery. Artists of varying ages and from different scenes mix together and even those who don’t normally create for art shows can take part. Anyone who bought a bag could take part.

And, for this exhibit, there were impressivepieces from all corners. From the incredible poster-sized photo by Marion Bronson (“Bag #46”) of a meticulously staged trippy diorama of random bag items—army men, a giant-looking lizard on the lap of a girl sitting on a daybed, Monopoly money—to fun children’s pieces, such as those by Nyah and Isabella Dutro. Nyah’s bunny with a pickle-jar lid for a face (“Bunny”) and her sister’s abstract monster with one big eye (“untitled”), also flanked a piece by their dad, Johnny Dutro (“All Alone with Arms Wide Open”), featuring a bamboo-and-rebar stick figure with a tiny Buddha head mounted on a lacquered board.

By the middle of the reception, both girls’ pieces had actually sold (at $20 apiece), prompting the younger Nyah to excitedly ask her sister, “Now do we have enough money to buy that dolly thing?!

Of the 91 bags-o-junk distributed, 35 were entered into the show. So, if you were one who didn’t get your work together in time, you have another chance to take a risk and create. MÁNÁS has partnered with The Naked Lounge coffee house for another open-entry exhibit (opening Oct. 5), this one built around naked coffee bags (available for $5) distributed for inspiration and transformation.