One of my favorite events of the year is the annual Art Fairs (actually 4-fairs-in-one) that take over downtown Ann Arbor during the third week of July. It is invariably hot, sticky, crowded, and glorious. There is art you would expect (paintings, sculpture, glass, fiber) and much you might not—bowling ball jewelry, sculptures made of nails or musical instruments.
This year as I explored the fairs, I was struck by how many examples of SCAMPER strategies were evident, so I decided to collect a few. SCAMPER is one of the creative thinking strategies, described more completely in the link above. It is an acronym that uses key words to suggest options for thinking flexibly. Below is my list of SCAMPERing at the Art Fairs, with some ideas for your artistic SCAMPERs. But it also would be fun to consider a “SCAMPER Hunt” in other locations. Hardware stores are excellent places to look for SCAMPER examples, as are grocery stores. Either would be a fine rainy day activity for a family, or an interesting homework assignment, as long as you allow enough time for busy family schedules. You might try looking for SCAMPER examples in a local museum, which is a good way to focus younger viewers’ attention and make the experience less overwhelming. And, of course, you can always hunt around home or school. Do bring a notecard, clipboard, or some other way to record your ideas during your SCAMPER hunt. I had so much fun looking at art that I forgot all about “Eliminate” until I was home. Of course, then I had to return to the fairs later in the week—so that’s a strategy, too!
Here are some of my Art Fair observations, with links to some pretty amazing artists. Enjoy—and if you take a SCAMPER hunt, I’d sure love to hear about it.
S is for Substitute. Chris Beck substitutes metal for fabric in clothing sculptures that look like the real thing. They also cause us (or at least me) to take another look at ordinary objects and envision them as art. You might experiment with making something out of an unusual material (a dog out of fruit? a piece of clothing out of paper or duct tape?) or try painting while substituting as many things as possible for a brush.
C is for Combine. Lots of artists combine materials. Mary Ennes Davis makes “Guardians” from paint brushes and all manner of recycled items (click on her slide show at the bottom of the page for some examples). Photographer Greg Turco photographs collections of objects–the spines of old record albums or rows of bottle caps–in ways that make them more than the stuff of garage sales. Try photographing a collection in your home or school as art. Think about a line-up of pencils, a design made of Legos, straws, or any item you have in abundance. One of my friends keeps stubs of colored pencils in a jar, and it is a work of art in itself. Photographing these odds and ends of life can help us see them in a new way.
A is for Adapt. One the more interesting adaptations at the fairs was Elaine Unzicker’s use of chain mail—yes, chain mail, like the kind worn by knights but (as I said), adapted. Elaine’s chain mail is lightweight, infused with beads, and worn as clothing or jewelry. You wouldn’t believe a metal scarf could feel comfortable around your neck, but it does. I always find “adapt” the hardest of the SCAMPER cues to use. Perhaps you can adapt a toy to spread paint, as this Kaylynn did to make a flag t-shirt.
M is for Modify, Magnify, or Minify. It was easy to find examples here. Susan Littman magnified her photographs of peeling paint on an old bridge until they looked like bits of impressionist paintings. After seeing them, I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at rust the same way. Audrey Heller’s photographs always make me smile, and can be considered magnifying or minifying, depending on your perspective. Her use of miniature figures amidst a giant reality makes you wonder which world is ours. Magnifying is another verb that works well with photography. Experiment with taking close-ups that help you see something in a new way—or maybe try experimenting with miniature figures like Audrey Heller.
P is for Put to Other Uses. For many artists, putting things to other uses is at the heart of their process. Pam and Pete Amputh make jewelry out of forks and spoons. Ray Papka transforms old books into mixed media pieces. Debor Groover makes “paintings” from polymer clay. Perhaps most unusual of all, The Center for Organogenesis at the University of Michigan’s BioArtography brings us cellular images as art that is fascinating and lovely. Check out the video at the bottom of their page. I have a photograph of neural stem cells hanging in my office. They look like an alien sunflower. Really. This is the time to look around the house for items that might be discarded and make them into something new. The upcyling blog entry might give you some ideas.
E is for Eliminate. I had trouble with this one. There is lots of art that is created by eliminating excess material. Paper cutters cut out spaces and some sculptors cut away clay. I’m sure there are artists whose key concepts center on eliminating the unnecessary but I didn’t spot any. I did find artists who created art centered around things others might want to eliminate. Mieko and Michael Kahn (no website available) create dishes covered with patterns of cockroaches, flies, and other crawly things. Fred Conlon creates Gnome Be Gone art, for those who want to declare war on pesky garden statues. I particularly like the metal creatures carrying away the gnome!
R is for Reverse. Of course I saw reversable clothing and belts. Mixed media artist Denial first caught my attention with his sign saying, “Sorry, We’re Open,” a reversal to be sure—as is the image of a whale with a “Save the Humans” sign. His website is full of provocative and clever images, just be forewarned that not all of it is appropriate for exploration by/with children. He labels one section “Naughty and Erotic” for a reason. It might be fun to experiment with “Reverse Advertising” signs. What kinds of signs/labels might you create to keep customers away from your products?
That was my SCAMPER hunt last week. Won’t you tell us about yours?