Opinionated pair just butt heads until art happens

Collaboration produced `Farmality' at School 33

Arts: museums, literature

April 29, 2004|By K Kaufmann | K Kaufmann,SUN STAFF

The sheep started out as a cow, say creative collaborators Tina Carroll and Joel Gaydos.

"We knew we wanted to do a critter with a human face," says Carroll, describing one of the pieces she and Gaydos created for Farmality, their current show at School 33 Art Center. But after the usual "bouncing back and forth" that is part of their creative process, she says, she realized, "This might be a sheep."

The sculptures in Farmality reflect Carroll and Gaydos' interest in mixing media and ideas in humorous and provocative ways. The aforementioned sheep, a two-headed mutant with startling masklike faces, provides a commentary on the dangers of biotechnology. Botanical Incident II looks like a giant, blooming bulb surrounded with buckets and tubing, as if on life support.

As might be expected, the very physicality of these pieces -- sewn, stuffed, built and intensely colored -- can evoke visceral and unexpected responses.

The intent, Gaydos says, is to "make forms that people can enjoy or despise, but you can't pass by and ignore them. ... If there's some reaction, we're successful."

A couple as well as artistic partners, Carroll and Gaydos met in 1996 when they were graduate students at the Maryland Institute College of Art and had adjoining studios. Friendship led to romance, while regular critiques of each other's work led to collaboration.

SNACK, their first co-created piece, made its debut in 2002 in a storefront gallery in Baltimore. It can best be described, they say, as a fast-food meal gone awry. Subsequent exhibits have been held at American University and the Delaware Center for the Arts.

The key to their work, they say, is their differences. Gaydos grew up on a farm and is heavily influenced by a background in gardening and landscape design. Carroll's parents worked for the Department of Defense, and the family was constantly on the move.

Artistically, Gaydos is more the draftsman -- creating what Carroll calls "expressive, frightening faces." He is also color blind, making Carroll the de facto "colorist" in the relationship.

Working together can be "trying," Gaydos says. "We're both opinionated."

Hence the "bouncing back and forth" the couple describes as the core of their creative process. The pieces "peak," Gaydos says, "when it's no longer her work or mine," when they're working on an equal level.

The inspiration for Farmality includes everything, Gaydos said. He draws on pop culture, movies and music; for her, it's childhood memories, biotechnology and "things that infuriate me." Their finished works rarely look like their original ideas, Carroll says. "It's the magic of the final result. You draw inspiration from different sources and come up with unique things called art."

Farmality runs through May 21 at School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and till 7 p.m. on Thursdays. Call 410-396-4641, or visit the gallery's Web site at www.school33.org.

For more art events, see page 39.

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