What looks like a whole lot of the same thing, but upon closer inspection turns out to be a motley collection of irrevocably unique individuals?
"Humanity!" you might cry out in some epiphany. But actually, the answer (here, at least) is pottery.
"Even though I have the same theme for every piece, I don't want to have them exactly the same as the other ones," says Mark Wong. "It lends more to the show to have each piece an individual, unique being, but at the same time they all tie in with every other piece around it."
The show in question is Wong's 1,000 Crane Platters Project. It's a variation on the classic 1,000 origami-paper cranes concept, wherein the Colorado Springs-based potter will produce that number of (food- and microwave-safe!) clay platters, each emblazoned with the image of a crane.
Japanese lore, of course, holds that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes is granted a wish. Somewhat cryptically, Wong says his wish is simply to see a thousand platters: "I can't wait to see [the installation] myself ... overflowing with platters."
The project, which will exhibit at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' downtown Gallery of Contemporary Art (GOCA 121) in February, offers a chance to participate in a unique and fleeting community. Each of Wong's thousand works is being offered — in advance — at $40 to the general public.
And there's a surprise: Buyers won't know beforehand which they'll get. A lottery, to be held during the show, will determine who receives what.
If that uncertainty is unappetizing, remember the price. According to Wong, 44, the larger plates in his "flock" — which may be 20 inches or so in diameter — normally would sell for upward of $200. In addition, a quarter of the proceeds will go to GOCA.
So for those looking for intriguing and guilt-free holiday gift ideas, Wong's installation might just be one perfect go-to. Participants will receive a numbered card indicating they have purchased one of the as-yet-to-be-assigned, selfsame yet idiosyncratic works, some of which are glazed. ("You'll see some shiny pieces in the middle of a forest of raw clay," says Wong of the final exhibit.) Wong is still churning out the platters; he began in February.
Thus far, GOCA director Daisy McConnell says, about 170 platters are spoken for, with a goal of selling the whole lot by Dec. 30. The most distant participant hails all the way from London, since the nature of the project all but negates distance.
"It's a very democratic show, in the sense that all these people are going to be connected," she says. "There's a pretty low threshold to enter into this project — and to have a tangible remnant of this community experience."
As Wong puts it: "We have an installation of so many pieces that the whole becomes much bigger than the sum of its parts. Eventually they all go into homes, but together they make a much bigger statement."
Printmakers in 3D
The project will be part of GOCA's Ceramica: Contemporary Clay show, which runs from Feb. 8 through April 12, and will additionally feature a large-scale raw clay installation by Daniel Bare and Valerie Zimany; a suspended clay installation by Jerry Morris; and site-specific multi-material work from Elaine K. Ng.
Why clay? "I think there is something very visceral about it for sculptors," says McConnell. Ceramica will feature a contemporary take on what she calls "an ancient art form." (Meanwhile, Wong calls potters "the printmakers of the 3D world.")
"In this region we often see more traditional renditions of clay, the functional potters," McConnell says. "We have wonderful potters here who do beautiful work. But you don't tend to see too many contemporary clay installations."
As such, the gallery — in addition to Wong himself — will face the logistical challenge of making such enormous and various installations work within the limitations of the space. This itself, however, is part of the artistic excitement. Says McConnell: "This is experimental, so we're figuring this out as we go along."