April 22 2008 12:00 AM
More than 50 napkin-based or inspired pieces of art are on exhibit at Basement 414, including this painting by Kimberly Lavon.

The only stipulation for participating artists was that a napkin be involved. For Jessica Dickty, an art education student at Michigan State University, that meant hunting for inspiration at a place where napkins are ubiquitous — a restaurant. Dickty, along with Cedric Tai, put her photography skills to good use at the dinner table. “We went out to eat and took pictures with our napkins trying to make some designs,” she says. “We used the napkins as elements to make an interesting composition.” By the end of the meal, Dickty and Tai had a collection of photographs detailing their meal at a sushi restaurant, capturing the patterns of soy sauce in soft amber lighting and black and white imaging. {mosimage}

Dickty also created a piece on her own, using watercolors to paint the image of a lush, multi-colored tree accompanied by a repetitive circular pattern on a white napkin.

“I think it is interesting, because everyone had sort of the same medium but could push it in different ways,” Dickty says. “I think it's cool to use different mediums to express yourself, and a napkin is a different medium for sure.”

The show features more than 50 pieces, including the work of Kimberly Lavon.

Lavon, a freelance graphic designer, is equally enthused by the concept. Lavon says she thinks exhibits like the Napkin Show will draw attention to Lansing's art scene. “I really love what they are trying to do for Lansing,” she says of the Lansing Artery Project. “I think its scene could be a lot more vibrant than it is, and by having more people participating in shows like this, it will bring more people here instead of Chicago or someplace like that.”

Lavon's contributions to the show include a promotional flyer featuring a school of bright purple and red goldfish superimposed on top of a black and white oscillating fan. The painting was, of course, done on a napkin.

“I'm trying to break into surrealism and printmaking, and I am involved with working with antiques, so I thought, 'what can I do to incorporate that,'” Lavon says. “I was thinking of riding the airwaves and doing something with an animal and sea animals riding the waves.”

Lavon's other pieces in the exhibit have a similar juxtaposition of black and white versus bright and colorful images. “Everything I do is vibrant and full of colors,” she says. 

Lavon, who primarily works in screen-printing, admits that using a napkin as a canvas can be a bit tricky. “The surface of the napkin is a woven surface, and to get the contact of the screen on the napkin, that was really difficult. It was really interesting getting that balance, trying to get it to adhere correctly,” she says.

Despite the inherent challenges of the process, Lavon says she could not have imagined a better concept. “It was perfect,” she says.


'The Napkin Show'

Through May 10

Basement 414

414 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing

Enter throug the alley in the back, behind the Nuthouse


6 – 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday & Friday