The new exhibition "Carnie’s Coup" at Jennifer Ford Art is inspired by the early-European carnival genre of paintings, the American circus and even the more contemporary carny lifestyle of "these bands of reckless people rolling through these towns for a few days and kind of raising hell," artist Jerrod Tobias explains.
Carnivals are known to be raucous, subversive, and they attract the masses. Everything that is necessary for a grass-roots art revolution, Tobias says.
"It’s a metaphor for kind of rambling through town, causing trouble, partying and raising a raucous, and using that stage to challenge the contemporary media machine as we’re going into the election and the stories that everyone is feeding us on a daily basis," he says.
Tobias along with artist Jason Rowland and Daniel Baxter of Pittsburgh will challenge the establishment by using the establishment to open "Carnie’s Coup" today with a block party, live music and food trucks at Jennifer Ford Art.
Tobias says the gallery is looking to broaden its scope, and he saw the exhibition as the perfect opportunity to make the most of a "non-traditional relationship."
The plan is to appeal to the masses by throwing a fun party where viewers can listen to a band, drink a beer and just try to have a good time, Tobias says.
"I continue to see art as the voice of the culture, in that we’re telling a story of our time. And in order to move and to grow as a culture, we need to broaden the accessibility," he says. "We’re broadening the flow of our ideas through the arts culture so that everyone is connected in this collective consciousness, which is about being mindful and being aware of the present, and taking responsibility for your opportunity to live your life to the fullest."
Accessibility isn’t limited just to the concept. Tobias says the artists put consideration into their price points for the exhibition pieces.
He says the artwork will range from $20 to $100. The exhibit will also have large paintings at a higher price point that are typical for a gallery.
"(Price) is a really challenging thing to negotiate as an artist, when you consider the amount of time that you put into your work. You have to reconcile the notion of the value of your time with remaining accessible to your audience. In Fort Wayne, we don’t really have a community that can nurture a high-end gallery system," Tobias says. "We’re a blue-collar city, and we have a lot of young people that don’t make a lot of money, but everybody loves art and everybody wants to be apart of it. So you have to draw the line as a creative individual and say, ‘Who’s my audience? Who are the people that support me? And how can I be more accessible to them?’ "
The exhibit will mostly consist of individual pieces from each artist, although Tobias says that he and Baxter, a close friend and former roommate when the two attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, have been working on a handful of collaborative pieces.
"One example is this toboggan that we found at an auction. It’s like an old 8-foot toboggan, and we came home and painted a totem pole on it together," he says. "That’s is just one example of some of the collaborative work on found objects and using discarded materials and reclaiming those materials in very colorful and inventive ways."
Baxter is the owner of the Kreepy Doll Factory, where he creates a line of hand-crafted, misshapen stuffed dolls made of recycled materials.
He often travels to Fort Wayne to work with Tobias. Their most recent project was the North Anthony Boulevard mural, but Baxter says he and Tobias are always in the midst of "preparing for a big show."
Baxter’s individual pieces for the exhibition consist of animal head sculptures, paintings, comic book art and the dolls.
"I just make magical stuff all the time, like one of Santa’s little elves would do," Baxter says in a phone interview from Pittsburgh. "The important thing with the show is to make it fun and accessible for everyone to come and enjoy, just due to the nature of the wild, crazy stuff that’s going to be jammed in that gallery."
Jason Rowland of Winona Lake says he met Tobias through the local art scene. Rowland says his work uses references from cartoons, comics and other facets of pop culture familiar for "a kid from the ’80s."
"We’re all not painting bowls of fruit and farm landscapes; we kind of have some more avant-garde type stuff, but we try to make it accessible enough to everybody. I think that’s how I fit in," Rowland says. "There’s a big change from generation to generation. I’m 38, and the stuff that I’m into is definitely not what my parents are into. They can appreciate it for the quality, but I don’t know.
"I think a lot people my age are looking for a way to look back and reflect and just want some familiar stuff that makes them happy."