Unlocking art

Keys were the inspiration for latest MÁNÁS group show

Jamie Keshet’s “Key to the Castle” quilt.

Jamie Keshet’s “Key to the Castle” quilt.

Photo By maryrose lovgren

BTW … Have You Seen My Keys?, now showing at MÁNÁS Art Space through March 8.

MÁNÁS Art Space
1441c Park Ave

Do you know how a key works? I mean, the nuts and bolts of the thing? I recently was waved over to the couch where my husband lay reading and watching videos from the comfort of his supine position. “Look at this,” he said in hushed tones. I looked. It was a short, looped animation of a key with its familiar toothy profile sliding into a cutaway of a lock. The teeth moved forward and pushed up little pins until they all lined up just so to reveal a gap in the lock that allowed the whole situation to turn.

The universe, I thought, is trying to tell me something, for this knowledge came on the heels of learning that the MÁNÁS Art Space was about to have its reception for a show centering around, you guessed it, keys.

BTW … Have You Seen My Keys? is the fourth in the gallery’s series of themed open-entry art shows all centering around a physical object or theme. (Previous themes have included the color green, plain coffee bags, and gallery-provided bags-o-junk.) To participate, artists were provided with several random keys on a key chain, along with instructions and a few ideas. Over the next six or so weeks, participants were to use the keys as inspiration for a work of art. The actual presence of a key in the final piece wasn’t necessary. Neither were entries limited to static works like paintings, collages and quilts: Key-inspired performances were also welcome at the opening reception.

The randomness of the keys mirrored the diversity of the participants, which is “one of the best parts of the show,” according to David “Dragonboy” Sutherland, who co-owns and manages MÁNÁS with Christine “Sea-monster” Fulton. Artists include “little kids, older established artists, and people who have never hung art before.” Indeed, many of the artists were on hand for the reception, which included familiar local faces, children and couples strolling through the gallery.

Leandra Courter’s poplar and copper “Llave.”

Photo By maryrose lovgren

Some of the artists did incorporate keys prominently within their piece. Jamie Keshet’s lovely quilt, “Key to the Castle,” embraces the key concept literally, her golden-hued piece displaying a silver key prominently on a blue, cave-like door. Sarah Campbell’s “feather lite” is a mosaic in sea-foamed hues with a lock and hanging key below a winged dove. And then, of course, there is Leandra Courter’s “Llave,” a child-sized copper key wrapped in copper wire hanging tantalizingly from the ceiling, just begging for an even larger lock to appear.

Other pieces were less focused on keys than on using them as inspiration. Sutherland and local artist Dylan Tellesen joined forces to create four mixed-media pieces, including “Sexy LBJ Beast,” a rumpus with a black Shmoo-like character frolicking with several possibly key-inspired orange creatures in a sea of rainbows. Local musician Sean Harrasser created an enormous and intricate watercolor pencil ocean scene titled “Transformation” that simply holds its keys and keychain on a tiny push pin in the upper left corner. The rest of the work is devoted to bird, dragon and sea-horse-like creatures swimming in a sea so finely penciled that it almost seems like cloth.

The next themed show at MÁNÁS will be Reflections on our American Heritage. For a donation of $5, participants get to select a unique book from the American Heritage series for use in creating their own work of art. Pick up your book at the gallery. Submission drop-off week is March 13-16.