Twenty works of art in an hour and a half

Written by on September 18, 2013 in Neighborhood News - No comments

The Pieceworkers get their “printing press” routine down pat before next Saturday’s Art Cart Derby. They are, from left, Martha Simons, Harper Steinke, Micah Russell, Kini Collins and Kathy Strauss. Not pictured is Laura Vernon-Russell. The posters have been blurred in order to preserve the surprise for Sept. 21. - Photo by Erik Zygmont

The Art Cart Derby and Art by the Pint gets a little bigger every year. This years’ event, set for Saturday, Sept. 21, 2-6 p.m., Conkling and Gough streets, carries with it a variety of artistic sideshows that are turning the event into the Southeast’s own version of Artscape, without heat or formality.

Take Piecework, “a group of Baltimore friends who are also visual artists,” in the words of member Kini Collins.

Much like the derby itself, in which entrants race “art carts” that they have designed to be both visually appealing and fast-moving, Piecework will be combining visual and performance art in a public print-making activity at 2 p.m. in front of the Laughing Pint on the day of the race.

The finished product is an “altered map” that will commemorate the 2013 Art Cart Derby. Proceeds from the sale of the $10 maps will go to Banner Neighborhoods, which is holding the derby in conjunction with the Creative Alliance, Southeast CDC, Loading Dock, The Laughing Pint and the Martin Pollock Project. A limited amount of 20 maps will be available for purchase.

Laura Vernon-Russell, Kathy Strauss, Micah Russell (son of Vernon-Russell), Kini Collins, Martha Simons and Harper Steinke (son of Strauss) make up the assembly line of stenciling, painting, gluing and cutting. Each Pieceworker has their own task.

It’s not as simple as it sounds. For the assembly line to be most efficient, each of the six stations must use an equal amount of time—two minutes—no more, no less. The Pieceworkers have held practice sessions to internalize the routine, and each will take exactly two minutes to add his or her personal touch to the poster, including signature. A live performance from the Swingin’ Swamis will play in the background, lending a Chaplin-esque air to the activity.

“If you think of a printing press—we’re creating a human printing press,” says Collins.

“We need the drummer from ‘Ben Hur,’” comments Vernon-Russell.

The Pieceworkers meet periodically, but not on a set schedule.

“We’ve got mothers in the group; we’ve got jobs,” says Simons. “Women artists—and you can disagree with me if you want—we rarely put ourselves first.”

She adds that the group is quite supportive of each other, adding to the quality of individuals’ art.

“As a visual artist, you’re working in a closet,” Simons says. “You don’t know what’s good and what’s bad. I really trust these guys to give good feedback.”

by Erik Zygmont

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