Downward Spiral by Grey Pascal
10/15, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
ACME Studios • 711 N. 5th Ave.
“Being obsessive-compulsive means doing the same thing over and over again,” he explains, extending an arm toward his studio space in ACME downtown, off 4th Street. “And that’s what I do.”
His studio is emblematical of Pascal’s self-diagnosis: There are several installations and sculptures composed of routine items, such as film strips, string, wire, styrofoam peanuts and Play-Doh. Each item is meticulously arranged into abstract forms that eventually make these familiar items seem extraordinary. Whereas Andy Warhol used repetition in his work, specifically with iconic images to make them meaningless, Pascal utilizes repetition with common objects to make them meaningful.
Pascal’s latest endeavor is an ever-evolving installation that, come October 15th at the closing reception, will fill nearly the entire gallery space at ACME Art Studios. The piece, “Downward Spiral,” consists of several spools of plastic trash bags that are connected on one long string. The bags have been cut down the sides, spread apart and painted a spectrum of colors and precisely hung from the ceiling. Pascal describes it a “very colorful and whimsical” installation, but its origin comes from a much different feeling altogether. Earlier in the year, Pascal lost a close friend to suicide, and very recently he lost his father to heart disease.
“The piece is about loss,” he acknowledges. “I initially had a very different concept for the show, but because of everything I was going through, I lacked motivation. Before I knew it, I was also lacking time.”
As the youngest of eight kids with a Southern Baptist minister, father out of Turkey, NC, Pascal describes his upbringing “very country.” However, he cites art as ever-present, claiming he has been “creating things out of nothing” his whole life. Having studied at Cape Fear Community College, Pascal continued his education with the directors and his colleagues at the art studio.
“I didn’t start calling myself an artist until I moved into ACME,” Pascal says. “That jump-started everything. There’s something really magical about it. [When I’m there,] I work harder and better.”
What originally was supposed to be a solo effort by Pascal, “Downward Spiral” eventually turned into a community art project. Inspired by the collaborative installations by two fellow local artists—Meredith Connelly’s “Conjunction” installation at UNCW and Dixon Stetler’s “Key Fence,” as seen along Front and Princess streets, downtown—Pascal designed the installation to be a work-in-process until the final contribution.
“This was the most I’ve ever struggled with a piece before,” he recalls. “I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I could not do it on my own. [Then] I had the epiphany that this was literally true: I could not do it alone with my art or my life. That’s what inspired me to turn it into a community project.”
Pascal describes the process as being therapeutic in dealing with the grief brought on by his personal losses. He opened “Downward Spiral” to the public on September 23rd, encouraging everyone to help paint the trash bags or assist in hanging them. He will reopen the studio on October 14th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for one final day of contributions.
“Generally, my art is about connecting to people,” Pascal adds. “Sometimes that is more conceptual, but this particular piece has been about connecting in a very literal way.”
According to Pascal, the closing reception of “Downward Spiral” at ACME will feature a couple of special elements for the audience. Though he is keeping a lid on the surprises, Pascal divulges that there will be an interactive kinetic sculpture from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. that ties in with the theme of the show. After an hour of contributions, the sculpture will then lend itself toward a brief performance art.
The name may not necessarily indicate it, but surprisingly enough, Pascal anticipates the show to be fun. “It’s funny that the piece is called ‘Downward Spiral,’ because it was dealing with a lot of dark things from this past year,” Pascal says. “But it’s about translating it into a light feeling. The performance piece itself is about transformation. I actually toyed with the idea of calling it ‘Upward Spiral.’”