Recycled & Reclaimed: Art at Jazz Kitchen


  • "Big Green," by Kate Morgan, was part of the one-night show at the Jazz Kitchen, 'Recycled: Converted, Reclaimed, Recovered, Saved'

On Thursday, March 10, Jonathan McAfee and Kate Wagner, two artists were featured at the Jazz Kitchen for a one-night only exhibit that focused on reuse and reclamation of artwork. Their paintings either recycled iconic images from the past, or, in some cases, were actually created on top of earlier artworks. This art event was enhanced by the appearance of DJ Cameron Hodges, one half of Twin Peaks, as dozens of people gathered to check out the art and interact with the artists.

“Graffiti is the last raw artwork we’ve got,” McAfee told me. “You paint something; then it gets painted over.” McAfee’s interest in graffiti explains the jagged blocks of background color in his painting “The Boxers,” evoking the way street artists obscure earlier work to start from scratch.

In the same spirit, Wagner reuses her own past artworks, but when she does, she incorporates the earlier layers rather than painting over them completely. For her, nothing is ‘from scratch.’ She explains that “Big Green” is a layering of several earlier paintings, and that it used to be upside-down. The central figure of “Open Window” is a see-through girl, painted only as an outline, so that the layers from earlier paintings leak through. The girl also wears a dress made of translucent toilet paper.

‘Keeping it fresh’ applies not only to conversion of materials but to reclamations of images and concepts. Both artists are inspired by Pop art. We see this in Wagner’s text-image composition “She Blinded me with Vinyl,” which portrays a vintage fashion model with LP’s for eyes. Likewise, McAfee’s portrait paintings of icons such as the Beatles, Lee Harvey Oswald, Sitting Bull, and Nelson Mandela are often based on iconic photographs. By converting popular images into a contemporary artistic style, the subjects of paintings are ‘recovered’ or ‘saved.’

By exhibiting their work at the Jazz Kitchen, at 52nd and College, Wagner and McAfee attempt to bridge the gap between Indy’s art communities, including Broad Ripple and Mass Ave. McAfee prefers the “old school” type of exposure that comes from this kind of one-time-only opening, “like the one-day exhibitions in the Salon era days.”

Wagner uses the opportunity to seek out “art pals,” artists of all levels of experience who might be interested in collaborating on artwork. Wagner is involved in several art-educational outreach programs, including O.T.B. (Outside the Box), which offers therapeutic art sessions to adults with developmental disabilities.

Recycled is an education in the manner in which art is produced in an unpredictable market. The trick for McAfee and Wagner is to keep the artwork equally unpredictable.

For more on Wagner; for more on McAfee.

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