Local artist Grey Pascal always manages to shock with his work. Whether doing performance art pieces, like being slapped repeatedly in public or laying in a kiddie pool of gunk completely nude, his audacious self-discovery has become an open forum, pushing people to converse. Instead of approaching his latest project with all eyes on him, he’s reflected the community at large in “The Word…”—which will close on Black Friday at ACME Art Studio from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“This project began eight or nine years ago,” Pascal says. “I was reading about how the mind works and wrote out three definitions. I found a common link in all three, and thought it was interesting how simple definitions seemed to illustrate how I think and what was important to me. It was a statement about who I was.”
Rather than go through a study of self, he decided to come up with an exercise that would be interactive. Last fall he began approaching people all over town, especially in Bottega Art Gallery, asking for 15 minutes of their time. They had to choose three words and define them. From there, Pascal highlighted words that stood out within their definitions, before settling on one that represented the essence of the interviewee.
“‘The Word…’ is the portrait of the moment shared between artist and subject,” he describes. The outcome features four dozen or more people showcased as prints on panel with encaustic, completed with the help of local artist Colleen Ringrose. Each photo contains the interviewee’s name, colon and word.
“I came up with the portrait and photo as a record of that conversation,” Pascal says. “It was downright eerie how spot-on some of the portraits were. I love how my Chicagoan-German friend Hedi’s word is ‘embrace,’ as she has moved to the coastal South to be with family and is easing into retirement. Downtown celebrity bearded mailman Jamey’s is one of my favorites both visually and in how it captures his spirit with ‘pinko.’ Fashionista Nicole has a perfect portrait in the word ‘fierce.’ Musician James gets ‘f-hole,’ as in the holes in the body of a cello.”
A Greensboro activist, “Darryl,” showcases “frequencies.” The photo representing him gives off the illusion he is floating in mid-air. Some of the imagery is serious and quite applicable, as seen in local photographer Arrow Ross’ picture. Ross always has been a forward-thinking artist, capturing photos of socio-political subject matter worldwide. Thus “progress” appropriately defines him.
Other images remain downright silly, such as Dr. Z, who according to Pascal brings healing to people’s lives. “He got a light and fun word like ‘shampoo!’” Pascal says. “[A participant named] Crystal and I learned a new word, ‘chthonic,’ which turns out to be an accurate adjective for her music . . . Two crowd favorites are Dan, who looks like he’s emerging from water with [the word] ‘entropy,’ and a certain shameless chef named Matt whose word is ‘convictions.’ I could go on. There is something special in each and every one.”
Pascal admits the photos were merely incidental when getting to the core of the project. The discussions it generated with people—many of whom he knew, others complete strangers—had him running through a gamut of emotions.
“The juice is in the conversations,” he confirms. “Some were light and some led me to tears. It amazes me and speaks to the diversity of humans—how one simple formula could lead into so many directions. I think by defining objects around us, we end up defining ourselves. I learned that people love to be listened to; people need to be listened to. I feel like I get to keep a little piece of every participant and that they each take a little piece of me. It’s a trade that will last forever. I even had a physical sensation that occurred with every portrait: a tingling in my forearms. I talked to a couple of energy workers about it and they say these interactions are causing an awakening in me. What a gift!”
Though November 28 is the closing reception, “A Word…” is far from over. In fact, Pascal’s original concept was to turn it into a book, something he’s still hoping to do. He also looks for the project to grow globally.
“The next big shift will be simplifying the formula and opening it up to the internet,” Pascal says. “The next phase should take participation into the hundreds and I’m hoping eventually the thousands. Who knows if this is a series that will ever be complete?”
The current series of work is reasonably priced at only $20 per portrait, or three for $50, eight for $125, and 20 for $250. Multiples are available for family, friends and fans.
Artwork by Grey Pascal
Fri., November 28, 6 p.m.
ACME Art Studio • 711 N 5th Ave.