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wheat-pasting Johnson City

Kevin James Tully has created a SmileBox slide show / collage of thirty-seven images from the June 27, 2015 shootapalooza wheatpasting extravaganza in Johnson City, Texas.  There to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the A Smith Gallery, our friends from Johnson City as well as from across the US covered two walls with black and white photographic images.  We appreciate Texcetera and Echo in Johnson City for providing the walls.


Wheat-pasting at Texcetera in Johnson City by The shootapalooza Wheat-Pasting Team. Photo by Ess Silks.

Ingrid Lundquist, one of the shootapalooza wheat-pasting crew members, wrote the following account:

Photo Gallery Celebrates Anniversary with Wheat Paste Revival…  Low Investment, High Reward

By Ingrid Lundquist, August 2015

Wonder no more about a traditional gift for an art gallery’s anniversary. Year one is obvious, a light-up “Open” sign; year two, logo wine glasses; year three, matching gallery frames; year four, a matte cutter; and year five, exterior walls on which to wheat paste giant photo images into larger-than-life collages.

Wheat pasting is not new as an art form, but it is an inexpensive product that can produce results beyond the few dollars spent. Think about the concert posters glued to the sides of buildings or the adhesive that binds papier mache. Basically it’s just flour and water. So simple and so old that it’s easy to forget, that is, unless you’re looking for a unique business team-building or celebratory activity.

Amanda Smith, owner/director of A Smith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas (population 1,658) is a magnet for interesting projects and people. In the past five years she has staged more than 50 photography shows in her gallery and in local establishments.

Smith is a professional photographer and veteran of “Shootapalooza,” an ad hoc group of photographers from more than a dozen states who descend on a city for a week each year. Along with the other gallery director, Kevin Tully, and Judy Sharrod, ring leader of Shootapalooza, the trio planned an on-going five year anniversary for the gallery.

On Sunday, three photographers met Amanda, Kevin and Judy at the gallery before heading out on their first photo shoot. Day-by-day more photographers arrived and by the seventh day, 29 photographers representing 8 states roamed Johnson City, the boyhood home of Lyndon Baines Johnson. The week-long effort incorporated at least 20 photo shoot destinations (including “last call” at Luchenbach, Texas), four gallery receptions, lots of eating and drinking, two workshops, and two outdoor wheat pasting installations.

The theme of the anniversary photography exhibit was water with the competition garnering more than 1,200 entries from 35 states and 9 countries. “When I saw the entries, it was obvious that outstanding work fell into two separate categories,” said juror E. Gayle Stevens, a fine art photographer from Chicago, Illinois. “I asked if it would be possible to hang two shows and the gallery agreed.”

“Water,” the 50 piece photography show in A Smith Gallery reflected the juror’s selection of work evoking the calm and spiritual quality inspired by water; it included many soothing abstract black and white images. At East Main Grill a few blocks away, another 30 pieces hung in a show called “H2O.” These boldly colored photos suggested a more brazen side of water, often including people interacting with and challenged by water.

Staged on the Art Wall at Pecan Street Brewing, the “Shootapalooza Alumni Exhibit” featured 32 photographic works created by participants in prior Shootapalooza treks. “The Johnson Settlement + One,” encaustic works by Kevin Tully graced the walls of 290 Diner, a local eatery.

“Art should be shared,” Smith said, “being outside, everyone can enjoy the images.” In agreement, Texcetera, a retail shop featuring Texas artists and craftsmen, and Echo, a vintage treasure and art store, offered up the exterior blank walls.

The wheat paste gang ranged from a curious wide-eyed two year old boy to a feisty photo wiz 80 years his senior wearing a t-shirt that read “Old Guys Rule.” It was uncanny how the participants found (or claimed) their unique role. Two ladder-fearless one-time paper hangers anchored the crew, while two or three others gravitated to organizing the images by size. Since all images were black and white, the balance of light and dark on the sheets was another consideration. The size of the paper made the organization process more like layering carpets on the floor than dealing cards when sorting through a stack of snapshots.

The unstructured wheat pasting activity quickly established its own rhythm and magic happened as if keenly orchestrated by a maestro. Mix the wheat paste, sort the photos into stacks, start with a large central image, roll the wall with wheat paste, hold the image up to the wall, press it into the wall from the center out, roll with more wheat paste, brush out the lumps and creases (leaving some for artistic flavor), and stand back to admire you work. Repeat until all images stick to the wall.

The self-appointed curators in the group used intuition in deciding the order and placement. The actual image was of less importance than the size, shape, and relationship to adjoining images. One curator placed a fragile flower next to a giant bee, another directed an old sink under a roller coaster car because the shapes mirrored each other, and a woman’s head was strategically positioned at the upper left so she could stare down at passers-by.

Because the wheat pasting took place on two different days in different parts of the city, each activity attracted a unique group of on-lookers. Some recognized it as “a happening” and casually wandered into the group while others took root in lawn chairs as if watching an outdoor concert. The store owners provided refreshments and words of encouragement, pausing only to gaze in awe as the massive wall statement unfolded before them.

In celebration of the fifth anniversary of A Smith Gallery, the Hill Country town of Johnson City, Texas was inundated with art-related activities for a full week, providing educational workshops and showcasing more than 100 photographers in five shows. The investment in wheat paste supplies – minimal; the goodwill and resulting public art – priceless. They came, they conquered, they left inspired… more than three dozen photographers, 64 images and two attention-grabbing wheat pasted murals.

Kudos to Amanda, Kevin, Judy and all who participated by offering walls, images and labor.

#   #   #

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