In an ongoing series called “Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space”, this past week I delved into the works of (and when I say works I mean 1000 pieces of work to be specific, they drew 500 each) Tidawhitney Lek and Daniel Antonio Rivera Echeveria. So the stories goes like this, Tida and Daniel are both friends of mine that I had the luxury of meeting in art classes. Tida was in my first ever art class at CSULB which was Foundation 2D but ironically(not very ironic, since I was extremely shy freshman year) we didn’t talk to each other until later in life when we had other art classes together (however she was one of the few people in that first ever art class that ultimately became a really good friend of mine, so she has a special place in the heart). She’s the deep thinker type and you can up talking to her for hours about philosophical topics. In Daniel’s case of when I first met him, it was actually just last Spring semester in Mold-Making class that I made his acquaintance. He is one of the friendliest people you can meet and one of those hardworking kind of guy where he operates on minimal sleep but puts in optimal work all, the, damn, time. They do have similarities that ended up making their show such a success, from their shared determination, to having an eye or should I say eyes for detail, and the amount of work they put into their art is insane and I mean that in the most respectful way.
Before I jump head on into the interview, I’ll paint a picture of the show the best I can to you, the reader, of what I witnessed at the show. The gallery that Tida and Daniel was located in for the week was the Dutzi and it can be best described as a very spacious but modest rectangular room. When I attended the opening night of the gallery, I overheard some people in the gallery reacted to the 1000 napkins that were sewn together and hung from the ceilling with, “I just want to sleep on it” and “It looks like a massive cloud” to which I agreed because I just wanted to throw my body into it and take a long thoughtful nap. Here’s why, it looked like a giant canopy and as strange as it sounds, it was welcoming to the visitor. If it could talk it would have a super chillax voice, “Hey, welcome, come in, relax, enjoy this art at your own accord.” If you look at the featured image, you’ll only get a jest of what visitors walked into because that was only a section of the hanging napkins (yes you read that right, napkins) compared to the actual full-scale size of it. As you traverse the gallery, there was a cave (for a lack of a better term or because I’m too lazy to find a better word) formed by the hanging napkins in where the visitor was welcomed to walk under to explore it’s underbelly. If you continued to walk all around the work, you’ll realized the uniqueness of each napkin. The images on the napkins ranged from a picture of the Batman symbol to a self-portrait to a free form quickly-drawn pattern to exactly 997 more images.
Full disclosure, this is going to be one of the few blog post in which I’ll format it in an interview blog post style but bare with me here because I promise you I’ll add the Tony charm to it as I do so well. So I decided to ask the both of them a series of questions, the classic five as you would have them; how, what, when, where, and why in a not so classic way. The purpose of this type of questioning is because I honestly wanted to know what lead to how and then to where which finally escalates to when and you have to ask why these two people or anybody in life would want to team up and create art together.
Let’s start. (Note, I interviewed them separately)
Me: How did you and Tida/Daniel meet?
Daniel: Tida was working on a huge canvas in one of the painting rooms and that caught my attention. Seeing a girl work on big paintings here at school ain’t common so I thought I better befriend her.
Tida: The first time we met was before we had any classes together. He had stopped by room 202 because I was painting a six-foot painting. It was awkward because he came in and just sat and watched me paint. We then had class for the first time together in advance painting.
How did you two come together to devise a show?
Daniel: I don’t recall who decided to work on a collaboration. But I do know that we both wanted to do more than hang paintings on a wall but yet keeping it in the realm of drawing and painting. So we both agreed on an installation.
Tida: I can’t honestly remember who brought up the idea first but I do remember saying that i wanted to do a collab with him because he was producing art in other ways I thought would broaden my knowledge of what I already new in terms of art making. For sure I told him no paintings. He was down for it.
What was it like to work with someone else on such a big project?
Daniel: It was interesting and fun since we started with one idea and that lead to another idea until we arrived at napkins. We both agreed on napkins because they’re inexpensive and the idea of disposing out thoughts related to napkins in the idea of materiality.
Tida: It was definitely a great experience, it taught many things. I would love to do it again and its worth it. There is a benefit to this.
Are there any fun story about the visitors that stopped by the gallery, any profound feedback from them?
Daniel: While installing (the work) this old couple stopped by and were curious what we were doing. Ends up being that the husband was an artist and had recently had a show about napkins, he did portraits on those napkins. He made about 300 of them.
Tida: We had a crit with a couple of professors that brought up interesting perspectives that I didn’t anticipate, and so that widen my eyes even more about what art can be and where it can lead to.
What was the one thing you wanted people to walk away from the show to feel, think, to know?
Daniel: Personally I wanted the audience to experience the importance of one’s own ideas. and how easily we leave ideas up in the air if we don’t capitalize on them. Also to show a different approach on what drawing could be.
Tida: Particularly, I wasn’t concern with audience. This was an engaging art project that was meant to explore the possibilities of art making. And this was an excellent opportunity to show works on this kind of massive scale.
So out of your 500 drawings which do you remember doing the most?
Daniel: I saw myself scratching my head for more ideas. Seriously, I noticed that I was drawing these abstracted figures.
Tida: Out of the 500 drawings. I remember doodling and these doodles would comes back in swirls, many, many of them combine together to form different compositions. I suspect them to be the next set of paintings series that would make.
Final thoughts on the matter, it was extremely fun to interview these two and their show blew my mind. Furthermore, it always great to see friends succeed in their shared goal of finding a new way to approach art-making and they did it as a collaboration, which is an achievement in itself (take it from me, I’ve seen people melt from the pressures of team-based art projects).
The show left me with the view of it being surrealist, from the concept of thoughts to the display of how thought accumulate in mass and flows within mind but now come to think of it, it also touched on realism. The realism behind how fragile our napkin thoughts can be, it flees from us, it stays with us, it hangs high, it hangs low, it occupies a space, our gallery (well, Tida’s and Daniel’s gallery) and sometimes it can become tangible because we make it tangible.