The Role Of The Emissary

Part of art’s extra-ordinary impact occurs in our approach towards it, either by the welcoming invitation of someone who feels we are worthy of it, or in our own awe of the continual possibility for surprise.

The emissaries will distribute embossed invitations during the event to those present in and around the park, most importantly, to the wayward and fractious who might not otherwise see their role in the community or as an artist.

My artistic aim over the next two years is to produce these events as proofs of humanities generative mechanisms. It is my contention that the more diverse, limited or disparate the individuals who are painting, the more unique and innovative the compositions will be. I am seeking to paint with those at the fringes of society, the border-edges where I assert that life grows. I hope to demonstrate these painting can be done anyone, regardless of age, physical, cognitive or artistic ability. I would like to show in paint and video, how these compositions benefit from the contributions of dissimilar others, of counter point and anomaly.

This event is the result of a philosophical congruity between my own artistic interest and a funding program of the Office of Arts and Culture. The money for a grant like this one, to bring the arts into city parks, are generated from public taxes. The law requires the funding organizations to purchase cultural services for the residents and visitors of King County. They cannot give public money to artists, unless they are purchasing a service.

This collaborative painting process uses material based art, science, and social practice to foster community building and convivial connection. Free to the public, this event presents an innovative painting technique, the possibilities of technology, what can be accomplished with a physical disability, and more apropos, the value of including possibly alienated individuals in a co-creational whole.

I am confident that as we offer these free events for groups, facilities and community centers, with a growing understanding of insurance, permits, waste disposal, generative language, amplifying messages and broadcasting, that compelling locations will be open to collaboration. Opportunities open with experience gained, our successes, and work samples for future grants. Perhaps the most important visual to document is our effort to include those on the outside of society.

Picturing a sixteen foot painting table and supporting equipment with cameras circling at the center of the park near the fountain, on the rise of the hill surrounded by those intrepid spirits who are first on a scene, I imagine a crowd will attract a crowd. We can accommodate twenty people for each pour, every 15 minutes for three hours. There will be assistants, partners standing nearby in support, those interested in pouring paint next, the curious, and spectators possibly three or four circles deep. It is my guess that even the average ego is not going to enter the group without going home to freshen up first.

While it will take considerable searching and outreach on the part of the emissaries, it could be possible to bring a few intractable souls from the outskirts of the park and throughout the neighborhood all the way to the table. It is my hope that with a kind approach and earnest invitation, they would travel the distance to where we are painting, and by naming a specific assistant, be ushered into a painting. The paper invitation will not be a flyer but instead feel important to the touch, with a map of the location, a QR code to reveal more information for those with cellphones, and an example of a painting showing how the individual contributions of color converge to make art.

Perhaps, the emissaries could search for two hours then return and assist at the table in the last hour. Then they could be there to receive those they made contact with. It might also make sense to walk with a potential painter all the way to the table. We will only know how effective this type of personal invitation is when we try.

This group painting process evolved because I was unable to create large painting by myself with my physical limitations. The canvases in the park are going to be bigger than anything we have done in a group before, at sixteen feet by eight feet. The making of that stretcher frame is about to begin and it is its own band project. These paintings will be larger than any one person could manage by themselves, even if they were able bodied. These sizable watercolors needs to be poured all at once by a team, so the colors can blend simultaneously. They are done in “one breath” and left to develop for several minutes as the solutions flow to weighted holes in the center of the table.

Applying pigment is as simple as pouring liquid from a cup. It is meeting with nature, the other, and the responsibility of the forces at hand which change the scale of our actions in this arena.

While disability is not the direct subject of the art, it does play its parts. Help is required to accomplish any project beyond our abilities. An obvious physical disability like mine also exemplifies all existential limitations. Its acknowledgment often creates empathy, and in turn, a universal forgiveness which can afford an important freedom when a new painter is daring to create with others. What may feel like a disadvantage or mistake can be seen as an important innovation for the whole. The painting is a possibility space. Movement, not having it, and where we do, are the most compelling aspects of navigating any landscape. It is difficult to take the first step into the unknown and risk embarrassment but the first, nascent attempt can be the most valuable aspect of creation.

Art is something uniquely human, where social class and personal history, mental and physical abilities, are only appendages to the avenue of meaning running through us. The emissary will have to carry such earnest beliefs and dare to impart them in what will inevitably be much fewer words. By definition, those on the fringes of society who could be most impactful to our group, will be less receptive to interaction and possibly skeptical of any advance. Bitter rejections could be caustic. Seeing shame, and an inability to attend will be hard to witness.

The work is to make an arena which honors our presence. The emissary will reach out, encourage people to travel a distance and step forward in action, to hopefully be rewarded with a sense of belonging and significance in a greater composition we can all see.