Nov. 1 2013 12:00 AM

Art show at (SCENE) Metrospace challenges artists with limitations

Courtesy photo

Friday, Nov. 1 — When artist Britta Urness decided to co-curate “Instructions_13,” a themed show opening Friday, Nov. 1 at (SCENE) Metrospace in downtown East Lansing, she welcomed a challenging theme: All 11 artists, including herself, had to follow a set of guidelines when creating their works. This included things such as asking the artists to consider the idea of white or light or to reduce the size of their piece by one quarter. Artists then interpreted these ideas physically or conceptually into the work.

“Instructions_13,” the third in a series, shows different artists using a diverse range of media with instructions selected by Urness and fellow curator and artist, Travis Head.

Urness, 31, is the owner and curator of the Milkmaid Gallery in East Lansing. She’s also an academic adviser for the Department of Art, Art History and Design at Michigan State University.

How did this idea come about?
(Travis) had two previous series of shows, “Instructions_11” and “Instructions_12.” With each one, the artists had to follow a set of instructions with how the works had to be made. The two previous shows were successful, so I wanted to curate another show for (SCENE), with curator Tim Lane. We wrote the instructions together so they were applicable for different media.

How would you describe the work?
Some of the work is really apparent in showing off the instructions. Others are subtle and embedded into the conceptual idea of their works. To see these artists’ interpretations to either adhere and adapt or rebel against the rules is really what the exhibition is about.

Why did you co-curate this show?
I knew Travis from graduate school at the University of Iowa. (I) wanted to work collaboratively with someone I haven’t seen in a couple years (and) was really intrigued with the idea and instructional addition of the process. He teaches at Virginia Tech and so it’s a way to work together without him having to be here.

Have you curated a professional show before?
I’ve done seven exhibitions at my house where I invite people to showcase their experimental work they might not typically show in public.

Where do you find inspiration?
I mainly draw and paint. “Lady Heads” (is) a series of graphite drawings I have done of portraiture of women. They’re taken from how-to pamphlets for salons from previous decades. With the hairstyles, I focus the work about women, about banality, about everyday routine, vanity and glamour. Some of my work deals with how women present themselves. I recently bought a 1940s book on hairstyles at the time sold to beauty parlors. I like the idea of decades, how hairstyles go in and out, and just about women’s trends.

I love the beautiful, ‘60s bouffant. If I could, I’d have my hair like Dolly Parton or Dusty Springfield every day, but practicality stops me. Something sculptural and the idea of line and form in drawing have to do a lot with hair. The buildup of line, color, and color theory deals with hair, makeup, and nails. I try to find these conceptual heavy reasons to be all about beauty, but at the same time I think of the cultural aspects that are justifiable like women, gender, sociology (and) sexuality all wrapped up into aesthetics. I like playing with those things, but must have practical thoughts, like how can I be professional while showing my creative side.

“Instructions_13” exhibition
(SCENE) Metrospace
110 Charles St., East Lansing
Friday, Nov. 1
6-9 p.m.
Runs through December 15