ARTICLE: Michele Bledsoe in “The Labyrinth Beyond Time”

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Creatures Great and Small: Michele Bledsoe with her painting “Under the Pillow”

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I’ve written a number of times on the amazing creativity of my wife, artist Michele Bledsoe. 

Michele was recently the featured artist in an article in The Foothills Focus, a weekly newspaper focused on life in north Phoenix and its environs.

Read the article at this link: “The Labyrinth Beyond Time,” by Shea Stanfield.

The writer does a great job summing up the spirit of Michele’s painting by referencing a quote from Marcel Duchamp: “To all appearances, the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.” Stanfield goes on to relay significant details about Michele’s experiences and attitudes towards art:

“She filled tablets with sketches and ideas that bound through her imagination. Creatures great and small would eventually be rendered in paintings as she taught herself the techniques. By all accounts, Michele has been successful on all fronts. Today, she paints in her home studio in Central Phoenix, her canvases supported on an easel her father gave her for Christmas 25 years ago. His passing a few months later added an extra portion of meaning to his gift and confidence in her, as well as Michele’s inspiration.”

The art of Michele Bledsoe does indeed navigate a special vision, her own enchanting world apart. It was a pleasure to read this article’s commentary acknowledging her achievements.

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From the article:

“Michele, over the last 20 years, has exhibited in various art galleries and venues.  Recently, she was invited to participate in an art show, at Skolkovo Art Gallery, in Moscow, Russia. The exhibit featured a number of international artists involved in the Remodernism Movement. As Michele would put it, ‘Who would have believed my painting “Forever,” a painting of a snail, is the one piece, out of all my work, that has ironically traveled furthest!’”

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EXHIBITIONS-Russian Stuckism: Registered in Moscow and Moscow Region

Russia Stuckism

The exhibition in Moscow

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“Communion has been one of my artistic goals for as long as I can remember.”

-Ron Throop

It’s been a very busy year.

I am thrilled to announce Michele Bledsoe and I were invited  as special guest artists for a July exhibition in Moscow, Russia. Also featured is New York painter Ron Throop, who has been very busy himself with an ongoing DIY cultural exchange with the Russian Stuckists who organized the show. He documents their exploits on his blog, Round Trip Stuckism.

I wrote about Ron Throop’s vision when they first launched the project. I really admired the initiative and enthusiasm shown. Grassroots painters separated by half a world and some really intense history were using art to come together, to learn from one another, and to provide support, despite vast physical distances, language barriers, and cultural differences. It’s really inspiring. Ron’s achievements were recently recognized when he was awarded a grant from the New York State Council for the Arts Decentralization Award Program.

The art they are making is fantastic.

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Andrew Makarov

“The Pretty Lady Takes the Andrew Makarov’s Phone Number in the Yard of the Ministry of Labour and Sotsrazvitiya”

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Stuckism, the most visible manifestation of the Remodernist art movement, has spread to 236 groups in 52 countries. It truly is an art of the people. We have a mighty task to accomplish: to redeem art from the crisis of relevance that elitist malpractice has inflicted on the culture.

I was very grateful when Andrew Makarov sent me a Facebook message inviting us to share our paintings. Michele and I sent works to Russia for the show, and included a copy of our children’s book The Secret Kingdom as a gift. I’m looking forward to more exchanges with these creatives. We all speak the universal language of art.

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Michele Bledsoe “Forever” acrylic on canvas 5″ x 4″ 

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Richard Bledsoe “Diver” acrylic on canvas 5″ x 4″

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From the Handbill:

“Russian Stuckism, registered in Moscow and Moscow region — an exhibition at a Moscow gallery “Skolkovo”, July 2nd – 30th. The exhibition is based on works of Moscow painters, who has joined the Stuckism International about a year ago: Alexey Stepanov, Andrey Makarov and Lena Ulanova. Their artistic way highlights the meanings of collectivism, equality between process and the result, and registering the events around them without judging the events. Alongside with the Moscow representatives of the Stuckism, you will see their colleagues from St. Petersburg (Ilya Zelenetsky and Sergey Uryvayev) and American artists Ron Throop, Richard and Michele Bledsoe. When exhibited together, the works of these artists suggest one of the answers to the question on the place of picturing in the modern art.”

ARTICLE: A Profile on Michele Bledsoe from 2005

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Michele Bledsoe “Moon Liquor” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 24″

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While searching through my email recently I stumbled across a long forgotten gem, from all the way back in 2005. It was a profile I had written for an online art site about my wife, artist Michele Bledsoe.

The website, “ARTish,” is long gone. It was based out of Phoenix, and at the time it was a nice venue to share images and happenings on the local arts scene. Looking at the submission email, I can tell I was still in the midst of my artistic crisis; the message I wrote was so tentative and apologetic about “being out of the loop.” But the response was positive, and the one article I produced for them was online for many years.

Full disclosure: this piece is written about the woman I consider the most wonderful and fascinating person in the world, so I am biased. But as a professional artist and cultural activist I stand by everything I said. In the decade that has passed Michele has continued and expanded her amazing creative work.

Some things have changed since then. This was before I discovered the international arts movement Remodernism; it was before we made “The Secret Kingdom.” But what I wrote then still holds up. Here, I present in its unedited entirety, a piece written almost 11 years ago.

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Like Writing Down a Good Dream

A Profile of Painter Michele Bledsoe

 

It’s hard to say when art started happening in movements. There has always been change in the visual arts, but cultural evolution used to take decades, even centuries, to manifest itself. Like any profession, most people working in the arts were competent rather than inspired, talented tradesmen fulfilling orders provided by the all powerful Church or State. Occasionally some regionally isolated genius would appear, and create innovations that would be refined and dispersed by acolytes and imitators, but this would be a slow process in an era when travel was difficult and reproductions of artwork were rare.

But easy mechanical reproduction, as it developed, changed everything. When photography came along, painters lost their role as the primary image-makers. The artists learned their lesson when machines replaced their jobs; they became moving targets.  Maybe this is when the pace picked up, as artists had to redefine their purpose in society. It seems like the definition of what is quality in art has been in constant flux for over a century. No longer would the powerful dictate forms or content, artists would figure out it for themselves, using the works of the past only for a contrast. When groups of like-minded people agreed at least temporarily to a set of artistic priorities, and created bodies of work exhibiting shared influences, a movement was declared, either by the artists themselves, or interested observers. The attitude was usually, forget all that other stuff that happened before-at last, it is we who have gotten it right.

One of the more memorable –isms that moved through the culture was surrealism. The idea of it survives today even to the mainstream, even if it has been reduced to a synonym for weirdness. Starting off as a mainly literary group, surrealism moved through the door kicked open by the irreverent Dada movement, who rejected the “rational” way of life that allowed the disasters of World War I. Dada might have been the work of some wry practical jokers, but what they unleashed took on a very serious nature. Through that door they breached lay all the darkness, perils and delights of the non-rational.

Surrealism embraced the darkness. It admired art by people considered uncorrupted by bourgeois concerns-primitive tribesmen, children, the insane. To discover the pure impulses that inspired these outsider artists, the surrealists looked to dreams, the subconscious, spontaneous gestures, and odd juxtapositions.

The idea of being part of an “art movement” seems kind of dated. The experiments and fads of the past can be analyzed more objectively now all the hyperbole has passed. And there is much to learn from the past for contemporary artists. Surrealism may be history, but the tools of exploration it identified are still useful today.

Phoenix painter Michele Bledsoe is a surrealist, although she didn’t set out to be one. All she does is represent what her imagination shows her. Looking inside, she views a twilight world of planes, steps and corners. Placed throughout these shadowy structures are seemingly unrelated objects-fragmented toys, body parts, plants and small animals, streaming ribbons, curling ivy leaves, pastries, all in a soft focus, but highly detailed. These items are familiar, solid-but they are also disarranged and jumbled. There is a feeling of contradictory movement between the various elements, a disorienting swirling sensation. A mysterious story is unfolding, a secret that only the artist knows.

Michele describes her choice of content as “Memories I have, things I saw or thought about when I was younger, mixed up with current thoughts.” When asked for an explanation for the various motifs that seem to repeat throughout her work, she rejects any calculated reasoning: “Not everything has some deep symbolic meaning; I think its more personal than that. Symbols are more universal. I’ve made up my own language.”

Surrealism is a tradition of art that prizes the unexpected, yet Michele’s painting technique is very methodical. She paints in acrylics on canvas, using tiny soft bristle brushes. There are no brushstrokes visible, even though every millimeter of the surface has been worked over and over again with layers of subtle analogous colors. She avoids the extremes of chiaroscuro, creating tonal works dominated by soft grays, purples and greens. There is also control exerted over composition: “The composition is intentional. I like to drag people through my paintings,” she admits. “It’s kind of a guided tour.”

But where the automatism of surrealism comes in is the objects that wind up appearing in the paintings. “The composition is one of the few intentional things that happen. I’m the one in control of where I put these things, and how I present them. But all the imagery is stream of consciousness.” As for the repetition of some of her content, she asks, “Ever get a song stuck in your head? It plays over and over.” She can’t verbally describe what goes through her mind while she is working. “While I’m painting I disappear. I disconnect-or maybe, reconnect. I can do it anytime I sit down to paint, for me it’s simple.”

Michele painted for almost ten years before she ever sought out any chance to exhibit her art. She worked alone, practically “in my closet” she laughs. “It never occurred to me to show them. It was my sister who finally convinced me to give it a try.” Now she has been exhibiting around the Phoenix area for about five years, and recently has become one of the studio artists of the Paper Heart Gallery. Experiencing public response to her work has been intriguing. “I paint for myself. I’m not painting for audience, I’d paint even if I didn’t have an audience; but I like to show my work because it’s nice to see the reaction. It’s almost like getting connected to somebody else’s imagination for a brief moment, plugging into some else’s deepest thoughts.”

Michele views her work as in a constant state of modification. “I like to look at my work in order; when I look at my work from 10 years ago, I see that I’ve come very far.” But she considers she has still further to go. “It’s a personal journey to get my skill to match up with my imagination, to bring it out clearer,” she says. “I’m looking forward to it.”

 

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Michele Bledsoe “Lost and Found Again” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 40″

EXPLOITS: “Infinite Monkeys” – The Trunk Space 8th Anniversary Show

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Michele Bledsoe “Lavinia” acrylic on canvas 10″ x 8″

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Today, May 7, will be the end of an era, as treasured Phoenix multimedia venue The Trunk Space leaves their current location after 12 years-a mighty run for an independent art space.

So many wonderful memories were created there. The first piece of art they ever sold, on their opening night in 2004, was one of my paintings:

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Richard Bledsoe “Rookery” oil on wood panel 24″ x 24″

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The Trunk Space hosted one of the exhibits I’m most proud of: 2014’s International Stuckists: Explorers and Inventors.  We displayed works from artists from 6 countries in downtown Phoenix, cutting edge pieces that challenged the dreary conformity of the contemporary art market. Other highlights included 2015’s Booked: Contemporary Literary Art and 2016’s Spineless: Invertebrate Art.

But thinking over the glorious labor of the love the Trunk Space has been all these years, I had a flashback to an earlier anniversary, all the way back to 2012.

My wife Michele Bledsoe and I received the following email on January 20, 2012:

Call for Artwork
Trunk Space 8 Year Anniversary Show

“Infinite Monkeys
April-May 2012

In the 1913 article “Statistical Mechanics and Irreversibility” Émile Borel wrote “A million monkeys randomly hitting keys on a million typewriters, under the supervision of illiterate Editors, working hard ten hours a day. The Editors would gather these pages into bound volumes, and after a year these volumes would be found to contain an exact copy of the books of all kinds and of all languages stored in the richest libraries in the world.”

Of course, Borel wasn’t talking about literal monkeys, it was a clever metaphor for probability and randomness.

To put it another way, an infinite number of monkeys, typing on an infinite number of typewriters, for an infinite length of time would eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare.

What the heck am I talking about?
The number eight.
See if you can follow me here . . .
Trunk Space is 8 years old this April.
The number 8, on its side, closely resembles . . . the symbol for Infinity.

Which bring to mind that quote (often misquoted, it’s actually a saying that ‘evolved’ more then ‘happened’). Which brings me to mind our 8 year anniversary art show.

Please let us know if you would like to participate in “Infinite Monkeys [Infinite typewriters, infinite Shakespeare] (aka infinite Art)”.

Any new (previously unseen) artwork involving monkeys, typewriters, Shakespeare, infinity, any combination of, or otherwise inspired by that awesome quote is welcome.

 

Needless to say we both created art for this exciting installation. Michele was inspired to paint “Lavinia” (pictured above) after a character in Shakespeare’s most gruesome tragedy, Titus Andronicus. 

This piece added a beautiful example of the generous synchronicity of the universe, as in 2010 we had seen the band Titus Andronicus at the Trunk Space, while I was in an obsessive frenzy over their brilliant album The Monitor.

For my painting for “Infinite Monkeys,” I went a different route, and tried to pack a lot of chaos and references into a small canvas:

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Richard Bledsoe “Globe of the Apes (London’s Burning Captures The Conscious of the King Kong)” 

acrylic on canvas 20″ x 16″

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Thanks to the vision of Stephanie Carrico and her team of super friends, I know the Trunk Space will continue, and evolve into evermore surprising forms. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in their ongoing adventures!

 

EXPLOITS: The 48-Hour Create-A-Thon

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The clock is ticking: making a painting in one weekend

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I recently took a weekend off from my own home studio and moved my easel, paints and brushes to another location for a very special event. I had signed up for the 48-Hour Create-A-Thon, hosted by Camelback Bible Church. I had taken part last year; it was such a positive experience I was excited when it was announced again.

I would have two days to create an original artwork right there at the church, based on a theme that would not be revealed to us until the event began.

As a Remodernist artist, I love this concept. All too often these days art lives in a kind of imposed exile from everyday life. Art is separated from normal existence in the isolation of the studio, the gallery, and the museum, constrained to meet the expectations of culture industry technocrats. To break out of those expected venues and to create in a house of worship was uplifting. I trusted that in such a supportive environment that inspiration would come quickly, even though it normally takes me weeks to make a painting. And I was correct.

On 6pm on Friday night, the participants gathered and listened to a reading of our guiding theme: the story of Lazarus, as told in John … After that, is was time to start making some art.

I painted until 9 pm that evening, and was back again by 9:30 am on Saturday, and painted with only minor breaks for the next 6 hours, and for about another 6 hours on Sunday. So altogether I worked around 15 hours out of the 48.

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Saturday morning: underway

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Saturday afternoon

The first year the event had around a dozen artists take part. This time practically all of us were back, with a whole new group as well, almost doubling the turnout. During the weekend, 22 artists worked together in a communal space, creating in a whole range of mediums: painting, drawing, metal sculpture, assemblage, digital art; even music was represented, as one participant was composing with a keyboard and headphones.

The public was also invited in throughout the day to watch us work. They got to see how our pieces were progressing, and to speak to us about our art and the creative process. The spiritual sharing, communication and connection evoked by such interactions is a key principle of the Remodernist understanding of art’s purpose:

Why do we need a new spirituality in art? Because connecting in a meaningful way is what makes people happy. Being understood and understanding each other makes life enjoyable and worth living.”  – Billy Childish and Charles Thomson

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Sunday afternoon: finishing touches

By Sunday I was mostly adding details and small elements of color, as the major elements of the composition were resolved. Because of the time constraints and the need to depict a specific subject, I could not follow my normal model of painting visions I’ve had. Instead, I let myself have an image suggested to me by the brush strokes I was putting down on Friday night.

When I saw the hint of a hunched figure clutching his legs in the field of light blue I had scumbled onto the canvas, the rest of the picture suddenly clicked into place for me, like another time Inspiration struck.

Lazarus waited four days for his resurrection. He already knew Jesus, so he would have known he was going to rise, but he had no way of knowing whether it would take 4 days… or over 2,000 years. Time isn’t a concern for God eternal. Lazarus patiently waits for the walls and the laws to dissolve into the light of love, in the cosmic cathedral of God’s presence.

An even better thought is asking when will our walls fall, so we can join the light? Larazus was raised from the dead, but when will we ourselves begin to live?

I can write words about this all day, but ultimately in art, words fall short. I can’t tell you, I have to show you.

The beauty of art is a reminder of the source of all beauty and truth. I was honored to take part in this event, which cultivated art as a form of communion.

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“Been Four Days” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

The completed painting

ARTICLE: I Do Declare-The Power of the Art Manifesto

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Someone needed to say it: Manifestos have changed the world

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ARTICLE: 10 Game Changing Art Manifestos

The article above lists, in roughly chronological order, samples from documents that made an effort to define some particular set of ideas that artists could agree on. Good luck with that.

The tone varies in each, from playful to serious, from inspirational to ironic; but each can be seen as form of taking a stand. They take the risk of stating: this is what matters, and how it is done.

Such expressions of conviction could feel out of place these days, if we listened to the dominant voices in our culture. We live in an era where our institutions encourage us to be muddled and malleable, all the better for the controlling elitists to manipulate us.

The art world is full of this mushy thinking. A great example is how so many SJW artist types preen over the perception they are somehow cutting edge and challenging. They are oblivious that they are espousing the same causes and attitudes being championed by the universities, all the major newspapers, the big three networks and the majority of cable stations, Hollywood studios, ensconced and entitled government bureaucrats, go-along-to-get-along corporations, the official leadership of every major political party pretty much, and the authoritarian brow beaters of social media.

Such rebels, to be in unquestioning conformity to the steady diet of propaganda that barrages us from every angle.

Like William F. Buckley described, “In the hands of a skillful indoctrinator, the average student not only thinks what the indoctrinator wants him to think . . . but is altogether positive that he has arrived at his position by independent intellectual exertion. This man is outraged by the suggestion that he is the flesh-and-blood tribute to the success of his indoctrinators.”

By all means, let the poseurs keep believing they are speaking truth to power. Their indoctrination was highly successful. The code has been cracked to make these puppets the manifestation of the slogan Ignorance is Strength.

I find the idea of the grassroots manifesto a powerful antidote to the poison of centralized control. Instead of following the top-down dictates of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected, let artists lead by stating their own idiosyncratic observations as a catalyst for real change.

A manifesto is a great tool.   It’s a statement of observations, principles, and proposed actions that the audience can test for validity, and choose to accept or reject based on their own ideas and experiences. I found the Remodernism Manifesto a very useful summation of very real problems that exist in the art world, and some sensible and positive solutions.

When I started sharing it in the art community, some were appalled, and felt the need to lash out. The forces of reaction recoiled in horror from a clear articulation of opinions and values that contradicted their world view. “Shut up,” they explained.

Why the attempt to stifle free expression, and amongst artists of all people? Oh, that’s right; that’s the elitist strategy for dealing with dissent. Crush it, and preserve the monopoly.

We’ve all  become too complacent about the totalitarians in our midst. This needs to change. It starts in the art.

The response of the establishment is very predictable-the frantic attempts to shore up the status quo by means of straw man misrepresentations, futile projections, creepy attempts at personalized pyschodrama. All are efforts to reframe the narrative back into the familiar terrain of the art world bubble. There are elements out there that are very comfortable with the current limited appeal of the contemporary art world. It gives them little kingdoms to rule.

Lots of hearts will be broken trying to defend that dying paradigm though. Art is too important to humanity to leave it in its current state of technocrat mismanagement, and their carefully contrived echo chamber is crumbling.

There’s nothing pedantic about insightful critique and a call for action being stated in firm, direct language. We have been taught to call some objects art that aren’t, by people who are operating out of insidious and base self aggrandizement. A growing wave of people recognize that the current model for the arts is a corrupt wreck, and is ripe for renewal. As we share our discoveries, the wave continues to build.

So let there be manifestos and more. Make statements of intent, editorials, rallying calls, declarations, rants and poems and broadsides. Reformation begins when the scattered elements that perceive the coming way start to recognize their kindred spirits, and begin working towards common goals. Let our manifestos bring us together, and show that out of many, we have become one.

Hear: Charles Thomson reads the Stuckist Manifesto

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Feel free to check out other posts here on the state of the arts.

EXHIBITIONS – Spineless: The Invertebrate Art Show at The Trunk Space

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Michele Bledsoe “Forever” acrylic on canvas 6″ x 4″

“Spineless: The Invertebrate Art Show”

January 2o16

Opening Reception January 1, 2016 6pm – 9pm

The Trunk Space

1506 Grand Ave, Phoenix, Arizona 85007

Some estimates say up to 97% of animal life on earth lacks a spinal column. Their range is staggering: from microscopic protozoa to colossal squids that approach 50 feet in length. Insects, crustaceans, mollusks, worms, jellies, and arachnids take on an amazing array of shapes, colors and structures that vary from the beautiful to the grotesque.

In January at the Trunk Space, a group of artists display works made in homage to our backboneless fellow creatures.

The Trunk Space is one of the best alternative art spaces in Phoenix, Arizona. For almost 12 years now the venue has featured local, national and international performing and visual artists right in the heart of the downtown.

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The view from the Trunk Space parking lot

I have been fortunate to not only take part in many of the Trunk Space’s monthly art exhibits, I have the honor of being invited to curate shows as well.  January 2014 was International Stuckists: Explorers and Inventors. January 2015 featured Booked: Contemporary Literary Art. For January 2016, I was of a biological state of mind.

I wanted to paint a jellyfish. What a strange and beautiful animal-but also, potentially dangerous. The image of such an exotic creature joined with both the portentous archetypal icons and the B-movie monster mash that are programmed into my psyche, and I knew the picture I had to make.

Jelly from The Black LagoonRichard Bledsoe “The Jelly from the Black Lagoon” acrylic on canvas 20″ x 16″

The subject matter of the boneless animal seem to me a intriguing starting point for other artists as well. So many options available. As is standard with my curatorial philosophy, I selected artists, not individual works. I respect the inventiveness of these creatives, and I always find the show comes together best when I invite them to give whatever they feel represents the theme.

This show was no exception. Once again, Spineless demonstrates the power of synchronicity unleashed.

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Hanging the show, with Trunk Space owner and artist Steph Carrico

Hang 2

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It always amazes me to see the sheer individuality that inspired artwork displays. The artists of Spineless aren’t just depicting invertebrates. They are showing you something about themselves.

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Barton

Leslie Barton

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Michele Bledsoe “The Edge of Reason”

The Secret Kingdom Blog

Immortal Hyrda

Richard Bledsoe “The Immortal Hydra”

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Steph Carrico “Swineless”

http://carricophotography.com/

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Soft Things

Dan Pederson “Soft Things”

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L.B. Paintings “Vital Impetus”

 L.B. Paintings Fine Art

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Dadsocks

Bill Taggart

Dad Socks: Stencil Art by Bill Taggart

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Thrrop

Ron Throop “Sure, I Like the Way Sparkling Earrings Lay…But I Won’t Sleep in the Desert With You”

Tam and Friends: Ron Throop Painting and Writing

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Walsh

Hannah Irene Walsh “Apophis as Round Worm”

The Art of Hannah Irene Walsh

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Whiting

Shelley Whiting “The Deadly Leeches”

Shelley Whiting’s Art