Smudging, used for centuries to create harmony and peace, is usually done by burning of herbs or incense for cleansing, purification, protection of physical and spiritual bodies, banishment of negative energies and creation of sacred space.
On Friday, October 22, I went to a different kind of smudging. An Art Smudge. OK, the official event title was SITE:LAB, but the spirit of the event created a great energy.
Linda LaFontsee came up with the phrase “art smudge” to describe the goings-on at 833 Lake Drive SE. The 24,000-square-foot, mid-century modern building, soon to be the new location of LaFontsee Gallery, was once the home of medical and dental offices and Network 180, the mental health authority for Kent County. But LaFontsee wanted the vibe of the space to morph from sterile to sensational. Demolition, transformation, and repurposing were some of the themes of the site-specific installations by faculty, students and alumni from several colleges, including this one by Kendall Assistant Director of Exhibitions, Michele Bosak.
I spoke with Peter Jacob, Kendall’s Alumni Director, who explained the concept behind the installations in a large room of the building’s basement. “The idea from the beginning was to try to attract people like Joey Ruiter and his piece, the Inner City Bike, which bridges the gap between the design of a useable product and the presentation of a usable product as fine artwork. We wanted a little bit of interplay between what’s art-related and what’s practical. That was the conversation to begin with.” Graffiti artist Sam DeBourbon covered the walls of the room, which pulsed with the beat of techno-music, with work.
“Graffiti bridges the gap between technique and fine art and something that is outside the realm of fine artwork,” said Jacob. “The majority of the space was about using the raw space and generating a conversation about what artwork is.”
Scott LaFontsee joked that since Kendall instructor Paul Armenta and his SITE:LAB team had done much of the demolition the building was ready to move into.
- Pamela Patton