UM art show plunges into the reality of creative partnership

First seen in Montana Kaimin

UM art show plunges into the reality of creative partnership

What better way to review UM’s new gallery “Lovers” than on a first date? Kaimin photographer Eli Imadali and I delved into the show, created by Missoula’s most creative couples.

It was a bit overwhelming for the first date — we didn’t make it to a second. But the chaotic combination of mediums and art certainly made for an engaging art show. It also left both reporters with a newfound sense of wisdom about love and partnership.

“Lovers,” which opened Sept. 6, brought together 19 couples from UM and the larger Missoula community to break the number one rule of long-term relationships — don’t work together — to create joint pieces exploring their love.

A pastry chef and a sous-chef created four cakes in their piece, “Wedding Cake.” The tantalizing spread contained cheese, meat, pound and sandwich cakes. The couple, Jenny Lynn Fawcett and Thomas Helgerson, used this art installation to make up for the cake they never had at their wedding. Honeycomb and candied rosemary graced the pound cake in stark contrast to a five-layered sandwich cake. The set of ingredients was self-described as “haute and humble.” The artists believed the cakes to be a culinary metaphor for their relationship. “The wedding cake invites and feeds a crowd,” they wrote.

It was hard to drag my date away from the orgasmic cakes, but there was more inedible art to absorb. Most of the traditional pieces of visual art were broken up with live performances and multimedia pieces. Jack Metcalf, the brains and willpower behind “Lovers,” said the combination of the visual, performance and multimedia is representative of the direction art is moving on campus and in the broader art world due to the merging of the media arts and art departments.

Metcalf did not foresee the slight turmoil that asking lovers and partners to create pieces for an art show together would cause.

The work produced by these romantic connections resulted in a vividly real portrayal of love. Performance artists Joy French and her husband, Jeff Medley, explored the nit and grit of a relationship with their performance piece.

Medley hooked one arm around French while she leaned sideways wearing a baby sling. With his other hand he made coffee and fed their 15-month-old son blueberries. They couldn’t find a babysitter for their son so he got roped into being part of the performance. French said that is the reality of the couple’s love story though, and one could say their son has been their most important collaboration.

My date swooped in on the free coffee while French told me about their experience collaborating artistically. The couple usually doesn’t create together. “You’re also living together and making a baby together and having a household together,” French said. “There is a lot of stress in the relationship already. To add a collaborative side to it can push it over the edge.”

Too real, Eli and I decided. They had to have had a first date, too. Do first dates mean babies? We moved on from the most engaging and impressive piece of the show before we could think too much.

A display of telephones with two different conversations playing on each end explored miscommunication in relationships. We’ve all had that one conversation with someone and walked away wondering if one of us was on Mars.

Multimedia piece, “Separate and Together,” was a mediation on long-distance love and the importance of maintaining connection while not losing a sense of individuality. The work paired iPhone footage of the partners’ daily lives, one in New York and the other in Missoula.

Other pieces, like “Show Me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine,” created chaotic displays in which the two artists combined their mediums. The painting was a deluge of colors popping off the diamond canvas.

A combination of ceramics and denim by Karl Schwiesow and Crista Ames complemented their piece with poetry including “Luminous Orbits” and “Cheek to Cheek, Seat to Seat.” We’re still trying to figure out the meaning of that piece, but the simple circles brought together with fabric were striking in their simplicity. Love can be simple sometimes, right?

Not all artists made one piece as a couple. Tricia Opstad and Josh Quick said they endured arguments during an uncomfortable creative process. In the end, they maintained their individuality and separately expressed the idea that their love is water with an ink illustration and an acrylic painting. These two pieces explored partnership’s love as it evolves.

They wrote that the love they built can be “turbulent waves when [they] are fighting for air and [they] can also find calm in each other.” A refuge and a source of love, they said.

The “Lovers” art show failed to ignite the love between these two reporters. Don’t look for fairy tales and glass slippers in these love stories.

“Talking doesn’t do our inner world justice, frequently,” Heidi Junkersfeld said. She recently moved back to Missoula and came to the “Lovers” opening to see what the strong artistic individuals produced when forced to work together to express deep emotions of love and partnership.

The many mediums and art forms made “Lovers” chaotic. But isn’t love chaotic?

This gallery brims with emotion, guiding viewers through vivid colors, visual and interactive art framed in stark displays, sound and words. The combined artistic mediums smashed together resulted mostly in pieces that reverberated off each partner’s separate creativity. The pieces were as unique as the 19 couples’ love.

You may not be able to eat meat cake or watch an adorable 15-month-old run around — he couldn’t be convinced to stay in the gallery the whole month — but “Lovers” can be viewed Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., through September in the Gallery of Visual Arts.