A Glimpse of a masterpiece

By Colin Shively

In the art gallery community, it’s common for exhibits to last for weeks, even months at a time, allowing numerous chances for the community to visit and take in the creativity. However, there are moments when a prolonged exhibit would diminish the effect art has on the viewer, so the exhibit is displayed briefly to enhance the importance and significance of the artwork. At the Flat Iron Artists’ Association, its First Friday of February was that demonstration.

Flat Iron displayed its “Now You See It, Now You Don’t” show on Feb. 5 and removed it the same night, after the artists took the entire month of January to create it. Taking a step away from the traditional art displays that Flat Iron creates, “Now You See It, Now You Don’t” was created entirely on the walls of its mural room by using regular house paint.

“We came up with the ‘Now’ show that involved artists from our building and around the city,” said Kevin Lahvic, president of the Flat Iron Artists’ Association. “We wanted to do something special because this was our kick-off for our season.”

The two floors used for the mural displays feature walls that give the rooms a labyrinth-like feel, said Charles Rees, an artist and associate at Flat Iron. The linear feel of the rooms gives the building a neat look and creates more of a performance area than a

basic exhibit.

The white walls of the mural room were assigned to artists of different backgrounds, such as photography, painting, 2D drawing, etc., where they would paint their own murals, Lahvic said. Yet when the walls met at what was called a “handshake” area, artists had to work together to blend their individual paintings together, creating an entirely new vision of what the murals would look like.

“It was pretty interesting, watching the interaction between the artists,” Lahvic said. “When you add the component to the handshake areas and using artistic means that they might not be used to, it

was amazing.”

Some of the artists got their work done the first day they came in, but because of the complex schedules that artists tend to have, a few of the murals took the entire month to create, Lahvic said.

One of the other catches for the artists was the challenge to use common household paint on the murals, Lahvic said. All the artists had the same palette and had to work together to make their art blend. Each color was chosen depending on how easily it would be to paint over after the exhibit ended.

“The specific palette was tricky for me,” said Nickie Rizzo, a fine arts major at Columbia who painted two murals. “I am not used to working with those kinds of colors; I prefer more of a warm earth tone palette. But I was able to mix colors and in the end, it turned out really good. It was one of those cool aspects of the project.”

The Flat Iron Arts building, which is owned by Bob Berger, is a maze by itself with walls weaving in and out so there were times where the murals were separated because of room changes and doorways, Lahvic said.

The Flat Iron’s Arts Building houses more than 40 local artists, varying from photographers to painters, Berger said. The artists themselves are eclectic, ranging from professionals to college graduates or students that are still

in school.

“We wanted to do this in a way where we could immediately start on the next project for March,” Lahvic said. “But we also wanted to add a feeling of emergency and excitement to the exhibit itself and give people a reason to come out that

one night.”

Between the time the exhibit opened till the time it closed the same evening, more than 700 visitors came to Flat Iron to admire the results of the artists’ collaboration. According to Rees, there was not a moment during the night when the rooms were not packed with people from all

over Chicago.

“We are constantly trying to promote the arts in our community,” Lahvic said. “This is a great way to get the word [out] and to make people aware that there are some exciting things happening here this year. Everyone that attended had a wonderful time while they were here.

The only thing we noticed is that the artists had a bit of a separation anxiety when we had to paint over their work. They spent a lot of time and put a lot of themselves in it.”

When the show was over, despite the time and effort put into the murals, the artists came together and immediately started to paint over the art work,

Rees said.

“When we told everyone what would happen at the end, they were still eager to get started,” Rees said. “We all mentally came to terms that these would disappear, but we still put all our effort into creating these.”

The murals required a month of long hours to create, yet only four coats of white primer paint to cover up. Despite that, Rees said that all of the artists felt like they had contributed something to themselves and the building.

“The idea of putting my artwork on the wall and then, even if it is covered up, it still being there in the building and knowing everyone’s art is still there until the walls come down is a pretty cool concept,” Rizzo said. “There will still be a part of our art in

the building.”