“Mark and Respond” began with a performance class taught by Professor Mary Babcock at the University of Hawai‘i–Mânoa. I had been a live-painter for about five years, but felt the concept could be pushed farther. In this class I was given freedom to experiment attaching contact mics to my canvas as well as collaborating with student musicians. It was also through this class that I was introduced to the concept of synthesia. This condition causes senses to overlap—often artists or musicians will have some form of synthesia. My instinctual, synthetic reaction to music or sound is in my mark-making, I feel as if I am “translating” what I am hearing.
As one of the overjoyed participants in the Orvis Artist-in-Residence Program, I have been privileged with much to respond to. In the four weekends I have been at Gallery 30, have already been enriched by the museum visitors who have been so gracious as to participate in “Mark and Respond.” I think the experience of this project begins down the hall, descending the stairs or exiting the elevator. Sound and music resonate through the corridor. Responses from guests have been so intriguing solely regarding this space. A few middle-school-aged girls described the sounds as if they were coming from a monster inside the studio. Their curiosity got the best of them and they dared enter the gallery to paint, feeding the bewildering soundscape. Another college-age man remarked that as he came down the hall he thought we were making music. Even though the prerecorded playlist was turned off for a bit the sound interaction created mimicked an actual musical score to him.
Once a museum visitor actually enters the space, he or she is offered the choice to enjoy being a member of the audience or to jump in and paint sound. I feel both roles are well appreciated and important to “Mark and Respond.” I have been awestruck by the focus and devotion that visitors have brought to the project.
I must mention one of my first participants. Upon arrival she and I discussed her favorite music (bluegrass). She found eventually through experimenting with the various mark-making tools that she was able to get a similar sound. In her excitement for “Mark and Respond” she returned with a friend sporting their own aprons and all set to paint sound.
Another memorable museum visitor was a young man on a short holiday from Japan. He came unabashed into the space, removed his shoes, and set to work. Although he understood English more than he spoke, we had a fantastic, wordless conversation. Arriving at 11am, he stayed until closing at 4:30pm! I am always amazed how the studio hijacks time and people get lost in what they are creating.
I look forward to this weekend and anticipate the addition of more stories, layers of paint, and sounds! Follow the sounds of the third floor to Gallery 30 and be enveloped into the project of “Mark and Respond”!