Richmond's first Talk 20 event -- seven creatives with 20 slides and 20 seconds to talk about each slide, or scramble to catch up with their slides -- was a hit. At least the first half of it was; I had to slip out of the 1708 Gallery after the first four presenters did their thing.
The event, modeled after similar Talk 20 programs happening around the world, proved to be an excellent introduction to seven individual voices and their creative experiences, products and philosophies. Best of all, it was casual, periodically profound and clever, and delivered in good fun -- at a reasonably rapid clip.
Believe me, you'd be surprised how much you can tell in six minutes and 40 seconds.
Co-presented by the Creative Change Center (C3) and 1708 Gallery, the first of what both groups promise will be many Talk 20 events featured a dynamic lineup:
- Charles Foley of Scout Design
- Photographer Shaun Irving
- Painter and illustrator Matt Lively
- Artist Liz Kellinger
- Architect Michael Pellis
- Designer and skull aficionado Noah Scalin
- Gallery owner and tattoo artist Thea Duskin
Here are a few highlights from the first four voices in the room:
Charley Foley and his wife Angelina Robertson founded Scout Design together. As a series of projects -- booklets and websites and posters -- flipped through the screen behind him, Foley succinctly described how Scout Design sees itself.
"What bucket do I think I'm in?" he asked. "We're not advertisers and we're not designers, we're problem solvers."
Actually, they are designers, but as Foley walked through several of their projects it became clear that a passion for the work is a common theme.
Discussing the web design for photographer Gordon Stettinius, Foley encouraged the audience to check out the site's Gincrack Cinema, which he said "combines quotes that he likes with photographs in a random way with interesting results."
He also spoke of the catalog project for artist Carson Fox as an example of how they approach work. "We can get obsessive about details," he admitted; Fox's catalog is silk-screened and has a sewn binding -- done by the artists on a sewing machine in the kitchen.
As with all the subsequent presenters, Foley moved quickly through a casual discussion of their work, their clients and how they approach projects. Behind him, slides moved like clockwork. He moves steadily. Nothing feels rushed.
When he ends, it feels like just enough time.
Shawn Irving's story is a bit different. He sums up his creative endeavor in one statement: "I build giant cameras out of delivery trucks."
The truck is a giant light-free box with a lens. It makes big photos -- four feet tall and eight feed wide.
The self-trained giant truck photographer says he's self-trained, and that "it's been both a ringing success and a miserable failure." He goes on to described it as being "like a backyard science project."
One built on a tight budget.
"To get a set of custom lenses made for the truck was going to be $2,000," he said. "Plan B was to get some old military surplus ... my shutter is a cardboard box."
To develop giant prints, a simple solution -- buckets and sponges.
"The camera truck project has never been about fame... or money," he says. "Instead, it's about getting people excited about art. You can make beautiful things in simple ways."
Matt Lively's self-deprecating humor is as low-key as the artist himself appears to be during his six-minute monologue.
"I work in a big barn in the middle of nowhere and I don't talk to people very often," he begins. "Most of what I make is really horrible, but I make a lot of it."
"But I don't mean it's all horrible," he quickly adds.
Like the others, Lively describes his process in the simplest of terms: "I invent little characters and make up stories and combine the materials and stories with the materials I have."
Lively talked briefly about his painting and illustrations before going into more detail about his newer work on a children's book and a film.
He's modest about his success, as well. "I don't know how real jobs work," Lively says. "I know you get direct deposit."
The final Talk 20 presenter I saw was Liz Kellinger, whose Reveal/Conceal show last year was great to experience. The photography/painting exhibit began with a self-portrait.
"I started to wonder how other people if they were asked would present themselves," she says, as photos of those people -- ranging from the normal to the unusual (a naked man lounging in a bathtub filled with water and rose petals). In six months, she collected 500 photos; she chose seven to paint for the exhibit.
"What amazed me was the stories that came with the photos -- the epiphanies and fears," Kellinger says.