Monsters, Etc

Well, it was quite a fascinating and fun Sunday afternoon, all in the spirit of art and community. And the story has a twist or two before the end.

Where do I start? Well, it was the second LA area Monster Drawing Rally (organized on LA by the Outpost for Contemporary Art), held over in Altadena. A friend of mine, artist and playwright Nancy Keystone, told me about it. Over four hours, many artists (Nancy included) would draw, in hour-long shifts, and then the results would be sold at $75 each. There’d be people looking on, general fun, food, beer, wine, and so forth. Of course I’d go! (As a bonus, there was even belly-dancing at one point. Go figure.)

It was rather excellent. There were artists of all sorts, doing a wide variety of things under the banner “drawing”, and lots of people to chat with and things to chat about. Nancy drew faces in brushed ink on pages of the phone book, which I thought was a lovely idea (unfortunately, I missed getting a shot of her in action), and there were people cutting up bits of paper and gluing, blowing things, measuring and calculating things. More on that latter later. (Click for larger views.)

scenes from the monster drawing rally 2008 scenes from the monster drawing rally 2008

It was another great community event, and I recognized faces of friends and strangers from other things I go to around the city, such as the farmer’s market, Categorically Not! events like this recent one, and the wonderful Urban Homestead Speakeasy organized by Christine Louise Berry that I reported on not long ago. My friends Marc Kamionkowski (Caltech) and Robert Caldwell (Dartmouth) (cosmologists/astrophysicists) showed up at some point, and it was great to see them and catch up a bit.

Every hour the artists changed over, finishing their work and another set of artists seat themselves and get to work. So it was quite a dynamic event. As the 5:00pm session started, while wandering the tables looking at the new work being started, I noticed something unusual. One guy was drawing, measuring with a ruler and protractor, doing a quick computation on a calculator, and then drawing a line, writing something and then doing this all again for every line he drew, building up a lovely texture of lines that started out as interesting, and rapidly grew to be very visually appealing too. The artist was Enrique Castrejon. I made a note to ask him about his algorithm once he was finished, as it seemed (from just watching) to be possibly a lovely combination of art and mathematics, the lines being lain down freehand, but the line’s origin (I think) determined by the measurement and a computation of some sort, and a final number being written down at the end of the line. (You can see some more of his work here.)

Enrique Castrejon drawing at the Monster Drawing Rally

Every now and again I’d check in on him, and indeed it was a really fantastic piece, and I was getting hooked. I decided that I’d buy it. I asked Rob to use his iphone to Google the artist to see if I could find out any more about his work as well. I mentioned to Marc what I was doing and he said “you’re interested in buying that too?”. Evidently it had captured his interest too. We agreed that we’d toss a coin for it if we got it, to be fair.

Unfortunately, things got complicated. Fast. While we were watching him finish it up, the artist Mary Beth Heffernan came up and introduced herself with a smile mentioning that she was interested in it too. The game was afoot! Shortly after, a couple of others came along too, expressing the same interest. Originally the plan was to run over to the display boards as soon as the piece was up on them and declare our interest, but that clearly was not going to work. We heard that it would probably decided by drawing from a deck of cards, the highest card winning the privilege of buying it. My heart fell at this point. For one thing, I never win at things like that, and for another, more and more people started getting excited and saying they’d join the draw, partly (annoyingly, I must say) as a result of seeing the excitement of the core group. This would dilute considerably my chances of getting to buy it.

Sure enough, after a lot of waiting around, a large group formed, and a lot of people drew cards, maybe as many as 10 or 12. Sure enough, I drew a 7 (sigh) and Marc drew a 10. We weren’t even close. There were two aces drawn, one by Mary Beth! (I was pleased about that since she was definitely one of the original group of us who had spotted and studied the piece early on.) She had the ace of hearts and another guy (who also might have been one of the core, but I did not see him until then) had the ace of clubs. (Click for larger views.)

scenes from the monster drawing rally 2008 scenes from the monster drawing rally 2008 scenes from the monster drawing rally 2008 Mary Beth heffernan wins!

At that point, nobody knew for sure what the ordering of card suits was. Did hearts beat clubs? Seemed likely, but who was sure? Ah. iphone. Mary Beth got out her iphone (am I the only one without one these days? Good.) and we did some Google searches. After consulting a few sites, all the rankings of suits seemed to agree that hearts ranked higher than clubs. She won! (Click for larger views.)

scenes from the monster drawing rally 2008 Mary Beth hefferman checking whether hearts win! scenes from the monster drawing rally 2008 - Enrique Castrejon\'s piece scenes from the monster drawing rally 2008 - Mary Beth Heffernan got to buy Enrique Castrejon\'s piece by winning a draw

I made a video for you to get a sense of the event, and it is below. You can see the piece being worked on by Enrique (who left before I could ask him about his system) and a few stills and clips of the bidding process and its results at the end.

What a fun afternoon that was!

-cvj

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