What is art? What indefinable quality magically transforms matter into something that gives one insight into the reality of our surroundings or that of the human condition? What propels it into the upper echelons of brilliance? Is it a consensus of opinion? An agreed-upon collective aesthetic? Even better yet, maybe everything is a work of art. Maybe all of life is art. Maybe every living, breathing second of life that composes each day should be put upon a gargantuan pedestal and praised for its contribution to our collective reality. Are all the seemingly banal objects around us simply waiting to be assigned meaning? Or are they just objects?
Part of the journey is discovery. And to discover one must search. The organizers of the Grinder Creative Arts Expo are on a journey. And their journey rejects all debates about what is and is not art. “At Grinder, you might walk down an isle and find a jewelry designer, a sculptor, a poet, a cartoonist, a tattoo artist and an abstract painter selling their wares to the same patrons,” says Grinder Arts Expo creator Kody Chamberlain. “We challenge the community to reject the pseudo-intellectual nonsense and judge the work for themselves using their own criteria.” Them’s fighting words, boy! Meant to ruffle feathers? Sure! But challenging our community’s preconceived notions about art is what the Grinder Creative Arts Expo is all about — as well as creative endeavors that stimulate, provoke, confront, enlighten, and inform the observer.
Since 2005, artists Kody Chamberlain and Rob Guillory have been putting together gatherings for Acadiana’s creative types whose art and creative pursuits stray far from the beaten path. Whether it is tattoo artists or graphic novelists, junk sculptors or film makers, painters or priests, it’s all represented at a Grinder Expo. “Each expo is a unique creative experience designed to promote and expand the creative community in and around Acadiana,” says Chamberlain. “There is already a thriving gallery community, but many of the fringe arts are blatantly ignored, and we felt that was a void that needed to be filled.”
Over the past few years, Chamberlain and Guillory have produced eight Grinder Expos, hosted by various night clubs in downtown Lafayette — the last of which at Grant St. Dancehall drew over 400 people. Attendees walk about a series of tables set up — LAGCOE-style — examining the various media presented at each participant's display booth. “Participation in the expo-style marketplace fluctuates but usually falls between 30 and 40 individual vendors," Chamberlain says. "If you toss in the live art and various stage acts such as live painting and poetry, belly dancers, and fashion shows, the total is probably around 80 total contributors.”
Expect to see all the above and more at the next Grinder Creative Arts Expo, including new artists like custom book designer Deborah Norsworthy and a doll artist named Ugly Shyla. Come out and support the arts. It is the same night as ArtWalk, so you’ve got no excuse.
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