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From anything to art

10:20 AM  Aug 22nd, 2017
by Tom Columbus

“Social media takes over our lives,” said visual arts professor Jeffrey Courtland Jones. “We can spend more time on it than we do talking to each other.”

He recalled one day he and his wife were sitting on a couch at home, each working on a laptop. “And,” he said, “we texted each other rather than talk.”

People using social media also, he said, “tend to collect ‘friends’ much like my 10-year-old son collects Pokémon cards. We have some ‘friends’ we never interact with, whom we really don’t know.” He noted he would see an artist’s work and “friend” him. Among his friends, the number who really weren’t friends grew.

In 2014, Jones decided that “I wanted to know the people who came across my screen daily.” He did that through a project he called Fiction (With Only Daylight Between Us) which featured 50 artists from around the world. The words in the project’s title are abridged song lyrics from the band The xx.

“Conceptually,” Jones said, “it is about ‘imaginary’ friendships that exist on social media (“Fiction”) and the physical distance of each participant (“With Only Daylight Between Us”).

The exhibit, shown locally and online, was, Jones said, “experimental and super cheap. It was also a lot of fun.”

So he decided to do it on a larger scale; the result was Fiction (With Only Daylight Between Us . v2). He asked 200 of his Facebook friends to send him something. That something was simply an 8.5-by-11-inch black-and-white JPG or PDF, he said, “of anything they wished that had some sort of relationship to their artmaking practice. I told them it could be an image of their current work, a scan of a page out of their sketchbook, or even a receipt from Starbucks, where they stopped to get coffee on the way to the studio.

All 200 he asked said yes. Responses came from 16 countries.

Besides  Jones, artists in the show with UD connections include full-time faculty members (R. Darden Bradshaw, Julie Jones, Kyle Phelps and Joel Whitaker), adjunct faculty (Nicholaus Arnold and Ashley Jonas), staff members (Michael Conlan and Geno Luketic), a student (Alexandra Morrissette ’17) and alumni (Maxwell Feldmann ’15, Rachel Hellman ’99, Courtney Hoelscher ’16, Amy Sacksteder ’01 and Seth Wade ’15).

How the images are displayed has varied from gallery to gallery. One arranged all the images in one large rectangle; each day, however, a different single image was moved to the opposite wall. The exhibition has been seen so far in five cities in the United States as well as cities in England, Germany and Australia. It will travel later this year to Brooklyn, New York.

Of the artists in the show who were friends-but-not-really-friends, Jones said, “Now I’ve become real friends with them and have collaborated with some; I’m currently doing projects with people in Australia and Germany.”

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