Arts » Visual Arts

Some Art Will Live, Some Art Will Die

A preview of Art vs. Art


Paintings from Art vs. Art
  • Paintings from Art vs. Art

That's one of the first things Primary Colours President and organizer Brian Short said to me: some art will die.

My gut was immediately and specifically reminded of the tag line for a cult, highly inappropriate 1986 exploitation film of B origins when I heard this line. As it turns out, hearing this line from Short, as well as the remainder of artistic activities on tap, I realized I wasn't that far from my gut's original connection.

To be fair not all of the art dies in Art vs. Art. It is a multi week event where artists come out on a Saturday, have 4 hours to paint, turn in their artwork, the public votes which one is their favorite online and then the pieces are auctioned off. The ones that don't get bids, get a chainsaw taken to them. 

For ten years, Short's Primary Colours has infiltrated the Indianapolis art scene: specifically Art vs. Art and Installation Nation. He runs Castleton's Prism and donates all art supplies for the events. “We decided to 'think outside the box' and ditch those shipping containers for Installation Nation – it was too hot,” Short says, and I laughed loudly in his ear, getting his pun a few moments later. He doesn't seem to mind.
A few of the paintings out to dry from the 4 hour competition.
  • A few of the paintings out to dry from the 4 hour competition.

“The next Installation Nation is from June 17-July 9, 2016 and we begin preparing for this event, and Art v. Art almost right after the current year's events end,” says Short. “We like to be prepared. I donate the supplies every year – and every artist gets the same supplies, same canvas, utensils, brushes and color pallet – and we let them paint for a few hours. Voting this year occurred several times around town, in person, as well as over email, and Sun King joins us this year so that was new, and definitely a plus, and the winning pieces will go head to head at the Vogue. And I still have a bucket of votes to count and I really appreciate all the help from our art supportors, including the Broad Ripple Village Association.”

Short did verify that the contest itself, with a big, grand prize of $4,000.00 can get a little blood-thirsty. He also doesn't get bored telling people over and over about the event, because he does “like to see their eyes sparkle” when they understand the event. I'm intrigued, new to the area, and not sparkling yet, so I ask Short to elaborate.

“Well, the rules are online, for those entering, but to sum, there's a chainsaw, a Wheel of Death, and occasionally a gorilla suit and our emcee -” I cut Short off and ask him to return to the chainsaw. That's really all it took to get my eyes to sparkle. “Yeah, there's a chainsaw. It's one of the ways art can die on stage, that is, if no one saves it by bidding and of course, if the wheel didn't land on Instant Death – that's, well, instant.”

So, a chainsaw. It turns out the tag line I thought of was from 1986 B cult classic Reform School Girls: Some get tough. So go insane. Some will die. And, at that time, 37 year old punk rocker Wendy O. Williams, would star in the film. Williams was, of course, most well known for her onstage antics with her band, The Plasmatics – which included wielding real chainsaws to destroy the symbols of our capitalist economy. So, I get the feelings that not only was my gut correct from the beginning, if Williams were still alive, she would have loved this event – chainsaws and all.

I tell Short all of this and he gets my sense of humor and synchronicity, so I know I'm on the right track, and I let him continue, “So, emcee Mike Wiltrout is a force onstage. He just kills it. And he, correctly, once referred to this event as 'a game show on acid.'”

For the record, and public safety, I will clarify that there is no acid at this event.

“I also want you to know, that much of this money is returned to the artist. It is our biggest fundraiser, but I make sure that 70% of anything made during bidding is returned to the artist,” Short clarifies.

William Denton Ray and his two kids. His son helped point out what was missing from Ray's.
  • William Denton Ray and his two kids. His son helped point out what was missing from Ray's.

William Denton Ray, an Art vs. Art participant this year loves the event, and even took his children to paint this year. “This is my second time participating and I love the energy. My kids had a good time, too – they made a mess,” he laughs. “I loved being outside, getting out of the house, doing something different, exposing the children to art, and well, Sun King was there, so I do like pizza and beer, as well. That's always fun. And it's an event to really put yourself out there. I made it pretty far last year, so hopefully, this year – well, we'll see what happens,” he says.

Although Gabriel Lehman was not available for comment by press time, his wife, Jamie, reminded me that she had a great time at the event, and in fact, “screamed her head off” when she found out her husband had won. I do believe Mrs. Lehman was being metaphorical, but based on the antics of this event, one can never be too sure.


“My real job is to watch it all unfold,” Short says. “I mean, I have to be prepared for anything. Every year, there is something really weird that happened – without fail. I do enjoy the part where I write that $4,000.00 check at the end to the big winner, but I love that show. It's an animal unto itself. And I think everyone has fun at the main event, for sure. Last year's winner, Gabriel Lehman, will be on hand to relinquish the belt and hand it over to the new champion – so there are many folks on hand to revel in the tradition and make art. I try to live up the event's legacy and we all try to make it better and better every year.”

Friday, Sept. 25
The Vogue
9 p.m. to Midnight
(Doors open at 8 PM)
$12 in advance/$15 at the event


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