This year, artist Ryan Wells and his comrade organizers hope to top the success of that event with their guerrilla art show, which will be held this Saturday, Aug. 27 from 9 p.m. to midnight. Held on the floor above Trattoria Stella at Building 50 in the Grand Traverse Commons, the show is pumped with high expectations of its two previous outings.
Just be sure to wear black if you attend -- its a Japanese tradition of showing respect for a performance, transmogrified in the beatnik era to a hallmark of hipness in locales ranging from London to the East Village... and now even Northern Michigan.
Wells, 30, is a specialist in commercial real estate who has a passion for painting. He and other local artists launched the Ignorant Art show two years ago to give voice to creative types who maintain full-time jobs but have serious artistic aspirations on the side.
A 1994 graduate of TC Senior High, Wells attended Northwestern Michigan College before earning a Bachelors degree in finance from Haworth College of Business in Kalamazoo.
After college, he traveled the country, spending a year in Florida building his career. Concurrently, he found artistic impulses creeping irresistably back into his life.
I had always doodled and played with art a bit, he recalls. After college, I packed everything in my Prelude and found a house and a job. I broke myself down and found my place in the world and my value.
Part of that exploration was drawing with charcoals after work. Charcoal is an easy medium, he says. I knew I wanted to paint, but thats a big commitment. Thats when I realized the crossover from doodling and drawing to self-expression.
After returning to Northern Michigan in 2000, Wells began moving past his drawing efforts into painting with oils and acrylics.
Abstract expressionism is probably my main focus, he says. I paint emotions -- painting keeps me in balance with a stressful job.
Wells cites abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollack and graffitti icon Jean-Michel Basquiat as influences. They taught us that we should all be seeking our own way of painting, he notes. For Pollack, it was when he found the separation of painting and the line. In my paintings, I start a story and the viewer subjectively finishes the story. There should be an emotional connection, like I get it.
Indeed, Wells paintings have a quality of great depth. You gaze at his work and find yourself noticing details that draw you closer; you fall in, engulfed by myriad levels and dimensions. His paintings are a soup of images with a slink of events roiling just below the surface.
Wells typically works on two-three paintings at a time. Some I kick out in a few days, others take years at a time.
One, Tarnished, took two years to complete. It was snippets of my life, not meant to be a pretty picture, he says. When I do sell my work, youre buying part of my life.
That painting sold for $2,200; others range from $500-$3,000. Despite those respectable prices, Wells avoids local art galleries.
Im not comfortable putting my art in a gallery. The Ignorant Art show was my humble yet sarcastic way of getting my art work before the public.
Like Wells, the exhibitors at Ignorant Art are generally unknown to the local art world. Its surprising how many people have other professions but are working at their art in their basements, garages and crypts. What we offer is a one-night show for three hours with a now-or-never feeling of the chance to buy their work.
For artists, theres a $75 entry fee to be included in the show, with 15% of their commissions going to support the Boys and Girls Clubs in the nonprofit event.
For attendees, the $15 donation offers wine and hors doeuvres from 310 along with music and art thats guaranteed to be unusual. And plenty of great people-watching -- theres something about black apparel that adds a touch of unforgettable glamour to an artful endeavor.