“By the Yard” is an exhibition that asked artists to create a piece that would be offered for sale by the inch. Visitors would be encouraged to choose their favorite sections and cut them out. How do artists and buyers feel about this experimental idea?
Bherd Studios Gallery: What was your first reaction when you heard about the “By the Yard” concept? Did you have to consider your decision to participate, or were you immediately on board?
Ryan Molenkamp: I was a bit skeptical, after all, who would want to cut up any art work that an artist has slaved over? Even if it meant a more affordable piece for them? But if the pieces were created with the mindset of being cut up, it could really be interesting, and interesting experience for artist and collector.
BSG: How did you approach the creation of this painting, knowing that its eventual form would be out of your hands? Was it a different process than usual?
RM: I have a few different approaches I take with my work: some pieces are a lot more abstract and some more representational. For this piece, it made a lot more sense to think of an abstract landscape, that could be cut up and still be interesting, in sections. I also thought it would be interesting to do a kind of light-to-dark composition, as the piece was going to be on a long board – one end could be light and transition to more dark shapes and such on the other end. This might create some interesting decisions for people in how to cut the work up.
Cut Up Place #1 by Ryan Molenkamp
BSG: Some artists feel a deep emotional attachment to their works, extending to the people who buy them and the places they end up. Others consider the work its own entity once it leaves their hands. What’s your perspective? Is it different for this exhibit, or could it change as the work is portioned out?
RM: One of the main reasons I wanted to do this show was it would force me to think about my work less preciously. I definitely feel like my pieces go off and have a life of their own, but it’s one that I set up and had some control over to start with, and where the clear intend of the work, how it is viewed, is obvious, even when the artist isn’t around. Of course sometimes you make a painting and someone puts a terrible frame on it and that can be quite upsetting (it’s only happened to me once, that I’m aware of). But this project forced me to think that I really don’t have any control over what people want to do with this work, even what compositions they choose. It helps me loosen up a bit more about what happens to things I make. I like that.
Molenkamp has done his own cutting in his time. With a 2011 installation.
Photo by Carey Rose.
BSG: This exhibit is an experiment for everyone: gallerists, artists and clients, and no one is sure what will happen. What do you hope happens to your piece? Would you rather be present for it, or would you rather not know?
RM: I’m curious what will happen, I definitely want to see how it is cut up, or if it is at all. Certainly a part of me wants someone to come in and just love the whole piece and buy the entire thing, but that really isn’t in the spirit of the show. So I hope it gets divide up into some nice pieces and several folks go home with a piece of the puzzle.
BSG: You wrote that you like how this exhibit takes the preciousness out of the work–can you expand on this thought? Does letting the buyer alter the work change its value, its message or its context? Does this alteration blur the line between art and artifact?
RM: In my case, with the abstract landscape, I’m thinking more that this is almost a collaboration I’m doing with strangers. I’m allowing people to cut up my work, wherever they see fit, which essentially means they are creating a new composition, they pick and choose what they like the most – they get to take part in the process of making the final image. The image they will have to take home. It becomes less about me and what I made, and becomes more about this object I have created having a final form that I don’t get to control.
I imagine it’s a bit what it must be like to have novel you wrote turned into a screenplay by other hands – I’m forced to give up my original vision for the work. Although, in this case, knowing the nature of the show created the vision from the get-go—so it will be pleasurable experience.
Thanks to Ryan Molenkamp for participating in “By the Yard” and for answering our questions and thank you so Sarra Scherb, our guest writer, for interviewing Ryan!
We’ll see you at the opening, September 14th at our new space at Greenwood Ave and 85th Ave (located above Chase Bank).