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Arts & Culture

Cardboard Art Festival is a celebration of creative reuse

Local artists build a carnival of corrugated delights

Photo: Tisse Mallon, License: N/A

Tisse Mallon


But no matter how weighty the artist's ideas, the material itself is light, both literally and conceptually: There's an inescapable association with childhood play. Earlier this year, a short film called Caine's Arcade made the rounds (if you didn't see it, you were either in a coma or a lot more resistant to Internet videos than the rest of us), a tour of 9-year-old Caine Monroy's fully functional game arcade made completely of cardboard boxes. Yeah, it was heartwarming and educational, but my first thought was, that's art. Specifically, it reminded me of Michel Gondry's cardboard sets for the "sweded" films in Be Kind Rewind and the cardboard TV studio in The Science of Sleep. If there's an artist alive who personifies the mix of high art and humble materials, who blends adult sadness with kid's-eye ingenuity, it's Gondry (see Science of Sleep's self-generating cardboard city for proof).

Rhodehamel, who has been working with cardboard for years (in fact, he had so much stashed away he didn't partake of the IKEA donation) comes close to capturing that same wild whimsicality-slash-practicality. His huge installation Deep Blue (at Bold Hype in 2009) was a multisensory experience created with little more than what he calls "discardboard," day-glo paint, adroit lighting and an eerie aquatic soundtrack. He was a motivating figure for several of the artists in this show.

"To be honest, when I was approached by Mark to help plan this event I was actually inspired by Doug," O'Connor says. Earley admits, "When I first started working on my pieces I was really struggling … but Doug gave me a tip on a better way to manipulate the cardboard which helped me along so much."

In fact, the surprising complexity of working with cardboard was a common refrain when discussing the show with the artists. In addition to the paper cuts, O'Connor says it was tough at first to let the cardboard be front and center in the final product and not just a tool or framework: "I had to kind of let go and try to 'keep it simple, stupid,' which I think totally paid off."

Earley says, "It's really fun to look at a piece of cardboard now – something we normally toss aside, throw away or use for practical things in our lives – and to see all the possibilities of what it could become. A typewriter? Why not! A flock of flying cats? Absolutely!"

Cardboard Art Festival

Friday-Sunday, Jan. 25-27
Say It Loud
1121 N. Mills Ave.
cardboardartfestival.com
$5-$75

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