WATERVILLE — Roughly 250 6-by-6-inch wooden works of art were scattered through Common Street Arts gallery Wednesday, resting on tables or on cloth on the ground, ready to be hung for the upcoming “Honey, I Shrunk the ARTwork” exhibit.
The variety is vast. The wooden squares have been transformed into painted Maine landscapes or animals, they’ve been engineered into picture frames and clocks. Most are flat two-dimensional pieces, but some creep out into the third dimension — like the one that’s two squares with dozens of wine corks popping out. The designs are as simple as a sunset or as abstract as a psychedelic pattern.
More than 100 artists, all from Maine and ranging from professional to amateur, from 2 years old to 91, participated.
“It was completely open, anyone who wanted to could participate,” said Rachel McDonald, program manager of Common Street Arts. “It’s giving people who have never called themselves an artist a chance to have art on a wall in a gallery, which is a big deal for a lot of people.”
The exhibit will open Saturday night with a reception from 5-7 p.m. Each of the 250 squares are on sale for $45 a piece. While they can be bought the night of the reception, the artwork won’t be taken out of the gallery until the exhibit ends on Sept. 13, McDonald said.
Most of the money from the sale of the squares will be used to benefit the gallery and studio on Common Street. The artists will receive $20 from the $45 sale, but can donate their portion of the back to the gallery. Some artists have expressed interest in buying back their own pieces from the gallery, McDonald said.
“One woman yesterday who helped volunteer recently came in and said she has grown attached to hers and may buy them back,” McDonald said. “I think that’s cool that someone was forced to make something specific for our show and they ended up really liking it. At most galleries, you can’t even conceive of purchasing a piece of art. That’s something we think is important.”
Each wooden square was made specifically for the exhibit, which is rare for an art show, according to McDonald.
“That doesn’t always happen,” McDonald said. “When you put a call out for work, artists will sometimes find things they have done before or are currently working on.
“A lot of people don’t work small,” she continued. “Asking people to submit work smaller than 12-inches-by-12-inches is hard. It’s nice to have artists make something new for the show.”
Hilary Ervin, of Waterville, was one of the artists who prepared a work for the exhibit. A quilter for most her life, Ervin, 91, decided to join the fun and painted a couple of squares.
“My piece is called Curves,” Ervin said, adding that each of her squares are meant to stand on its own. “They’re just curvy motifs. I got the idea from far-eastern fabrics.”
McDonald said artists from all over the state were interested once word got out, with a glut of artists from the Portland area and many central Maine-based artists participating.
“It’s generated a buzz,” McDonald said. “A lot of people came into the gallery who had never been here before. Even people who live nearby and had never been here stopped by.”
McDonald put the word out toward the end of May for anyone looking to participate to grab up to three wooden squares from the gallery to be decorated by July 20. The month-and-a-half or so is a relatively quick turnaround for a piece of artwork, but it provided a chance for that deadline-driven inspiration to come out of the artist.
“It gave people this creative challenge,” McDonald said.
All the squares will be hanging off the gallery walls from Aug. 2 to Sept. 13, looking like a “big pseudo grid,” McDonald said. If there’s a piece of interest, prospective buyers can purchase it at any time, and a red dot will accompany the artwork, indicating it has been sold. Those who purchase a square can literally take it off the gallery wall on Sept. 13.
But before then, McDonald is finishing the “Honey, I shrunk the ARTwork” gallery for the opening night reception, which she expects will draw at least 100 people.
“I’m expecting it to be pretty crazy,” she said, “but I don’t want to jinx it.”
Jesse Scardina — 861-9239