For Art’s Sake
This article originally appeared in 002 Magazine, March 2001
“Just keep creating. Just keep creating,” is the mantra that Kelly Gale Amen and John Palmer have heard over the past seven months. “How many times in the world do you have the opportunity to be the featured artist of anything?” questions Amen. “And, how many times do you have people say, “just keep going” and then have the opportunity to keep going?” Lucky for Houstonians, Amen and Palmer have had the chance to “just keep going and just keep creating” as the featured artists of the Bayou City Art Festival.
And creating they have. The main piece that Amen and Palmer collaborated on to get the creative juices flowing is ‘the tray’. It is the centerpiece of the Bayou City Arts Festival and the centerpiece of creative efforts of the Amen/Palmer team. the featured artists have spent the last several months collaborating and creating fabulous, functional artwork for the festival ranging from the token piece, the tray, to what they call “compounded sculptures.”
The tray is 72 pounds of stainless steel, bronze and paint that sits about as high as a table used for serving breakfast in bed. Amen created the structure of the tray and Palmer painted the surface. The abstract painting on the surface is a grid of six squares representing a fish.
“Art is to be enjoyed, not feared!”
“One of the great things about our collaboration” says Amen, “is that we have centered around the word ‘grid.’ Everything that we are doing has some type of grid.” Some of the grids are small, some are multifaceted, some are deep within a piece, some are expanded into a huge grid. The main theme though, the grid, remains the same throughout the artwork.
As a result of the grid, the art “really is geometric. It is abstract. It is three-dimensional. But, it is all functional” says Amen. “Art should not only be visually loved, it should be embraced and used. You cannot hurt this tray…you may not be able to move it, but you can’t hurt it.”
Another functional artistic creation of Amen and Palmer is a type of art they call “compounded sculptures.” The compounded art pieces look and feel like pillows; and a few times, even the artists themselves slip and call the artwork pillows.
One of Palmer’s pieces that will be at the festival is a triptych utilizing the compounded sculptures. The center panel is a five square by five square grid. Each square is filled by a compounded sculpture. “On one side of the compounded sculptures is a fulll color painting” explains Palmer. “On the other side is the same image in black and white.” In the center panel of the triptych, there are 250 different combinations of pillows.
To the left of the center panel is a seven foot by seven foot canvas cut into three panels. One of the panels is the same image revealed on the compounded sculptures, in full color. “Then,” says Palmer excitedly, “to the right, another seven by seven canvas, cut into four squares, with the same image, black and white.” The result is a visual delight of color, grids and fabrics.
Amen and Palmer won’t admit who developed the ideas for each piece in the collaborative effort. “In collaboration” say Amen, “it really isn’t fair to say who does what. It is the energy of simply being around someone enough that creative exchange proliferates and things just happen.” The team has effectively joined the one’s enjoyment of metal and pillows with the other’s fascination with and talent in painting.
The festival and the Amen/Palmer collaboration aim to touch people with art. There is no confusion or intimidation, just a desire to spark a reaction in the viewers. Amen explains that “if people at the Bayou City Art Festival take away from the experience nothing but a visual awareness that life can be different, we’ve done our job. Art is to be enjoyed, not feared.”
The Bayou City Art Fesival is March 23 through 25 in Memorial Park. The festival will be open even if there is a hurricane and will stay open as long as there is an artist who wants to be there.