Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wrap It Up, Already: Behind the Scenes

Since this was our first gallery installation piece, we weren't quite sure what to expect. Friends, family, and co-workers, dropped off copious amounts of wrapping paper at 'some things looming' over the weeks following the holidays. We had small bags, large bags, even lawn and leaf bags full of wrapping paper! We piled them up in the third room of the gallery, where they sat waiting, leaving us to wonder, "What on earth is Kathryn going to DO with all this stuff?"

She arrived on Friday with her suitcase filled to the brim with even more paper! A shredder, some scotch tape, scissors, and a concept, Kathryn closeted herself into the gallery for the first few hours considering the construction of her piece, drawing upon inspiration. After a bit, I heard the shredder and dared to poke my head in the door. I didn't want to disturb the process, after all, but I thought the sound of the machine might be a good time to sneak a peek and offer my assistance.

Bows, tissue paper, ribbon, all littered the floor in a pile to one side, while squares and rectangles of re-claimed paper were laid out nice and neat. I was given instructions to dig through the bags and bags of paper, find large un-ripped, un-taped, sections, square it up, and smooth them out. Counting piles of ten for purposes of tally, occasionally, I would clear the floor, only to repeat the process, over and over again. Meanwhile, Kathryn continued to shred and wrap packets, each packet containing the tiny pieces of paper that had made up her life over the past years: greeting cards, old faded articles to read, rejection notices, old love letters, old bills, out-dated prospectus, etc.

The next day continued much in the same way as the first: shred, wrap, shred, wrap, shred and wrap some more. Saturday Sampler classes had resumed so we left Kathryn to create her piece, our very capable intern, Caleigh lending her hands to the process. Piles of packets continued to grow as the day continued, the numbers, I believe, totaling over 200. I'm betting Caleigh's family will be receiving their future presents in gift bags for a long time to come. I might even be safe to presume she was wishing she had never seen wrapping paper before, and never wanted to see another scrap of it again.

The musical hums of the shredder, the sounds of crinkling paper, and the muted conversations flowed down the hallway and melted into the background while we all worked. Kathryn closeted herself in the gallery, focused on her piece. Rebekah was in the office, processing intake, paying artists, and updating the database. Floyd could be found here and there, helping where needed, photographing progress, running up and down stairs, getting this, and finding that. And I moved between the Office and the Boutique tagging new items, arranging and re-arranging again and again. Lost in our own little worlds, Saturday slipped by before we knew it. Fatigue dragged at each and every one of us by the end, so we called it a day, knowing we had left bits and pieces to do first thing Sunday morning before opening.

Arriving at 9 am, we worked to put the finishing touches on the exhibit. We sent Floyd to Staples as soon as they opened to pick up the over-sized print out of the statement for the installation. He walked in, jangling the bells on the door, bringing a blast of chilled air behind him. We glued the statement to foam board, hung it in the gallery. Then we proceeded to set up places for the gallery book and "Adopt a Packet." Prepping the food for the reception, I spent the first hour or so in the kitchenette on the third floor, while Rebekah did some last minute printing, and Kathryn prepped her gallery book. Soon one o'clock arrived, and visitors began to stream through the front door, shaking snow and slush from their feet, brushing off the cold from their bodies. We mingled, meeting new people, greeting familiar faces. And all too suddenly, it was over.

As is our habit after every show, we parked ourselves on the bench in the hall. It was at that precise moment, our stomachs had reminded us that we skipped lunch. While debriefing and unwinding from the long weekend, we finally took the downtime to have a bite to eat . Sitting and chatting, it is always the perfect ending to a perfect day.

It has been an amazing experience to watch the process of this powerful piece come together. And I, for one, have been truly impacted for having been a part. I hope you'll stop by our gallery, see the installation in person, and read her statement. We'd love to see you there. ~Melanie

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