Friday, February 26, 2010

Hotel Art Intervention Project

A few years ago I told you about my "hotel art intervention project" where, starting in the late 70's and through the early 2000's, it was my usual practice, as sort of a personal artistic jihad, to take down the framed "art" in hotel rooms, take the frame apart, and remove the usual poster or reproduction that was the art, turn it around, and draw (and once in a while actually paint) a "new" original work on the verso of the poster.

It was usually a simple, figurative line drawing, more often than not done while watching TV, and often inspired by the TV show itself. Some were more elaborate than others, and every once in a while a really involved drawing would emerge.

Once finished, I would re-frame the new work, and re-hang it on the wall.

Sometimes I would add touches to an existing piece. I especially loved those mass produced oil paintings of beaches and huts and glorious sunsets. To the beaches I would "add" other elements, such as footprints spelling out messages, discarded syringes, a dead octopus, etc. To the glorious sunsets perhaps an UFO or the odd-looking airplane, or even Superman flying around.

Between the late 1970s and up to maybe 2002-3 I did this probably around 200 times in hotel rooms in Europe, Canada, Mexico and all over the United States.

A few weeks ago I visited the Left Coast and stayed in a hotel that I had previously been in many times. It has been refurbished recently and all the rooms were nice and clean. My room was decorated with some acceptable "wall decor" of flower prints (see the images below).

hotel flower print

And then, to my utter surprise I discovered a piece of artwork hanging in this room which was one of the works that I had "improved" upon a few years ago! I recognized it instantly!

Hotel Art Intervention Project 2002


Here's the "improved" print hanging on the hotel room wall today

What are the chances that from all the rooms in that hotel I would end up in the one where my intervention was hanging? Or better put re-hung.

Hotel Art Intervention Project 2002
Here's another shot of the piece in the corner of the room

I documented most of the earlier hotel work via slides (remember slides?) - the vast majority of which were lost in the mid 90s when the storage facility where I had a lot of books, tons of art slides and other stuff was flooded.

But this latter "intervention" documentation survives thanks to digital cameras, as it is one of the later ones, from around 2002. So I went back through a couple of old PCs that I need to throw away as soon as I copy everything that's in the C drive, and found some vintage digital images of the original process.

Hotel Art Intervention Project 2002

This is the original flower poster, image taken in 2002 before I "improved" the wall decor

What I did in this particular case, was to create a furious battle scene going on the flower itself. From a distance it looks like the flower is being invaded by bugs, but once we get close, we see a barbaric battle going on, as Cimmerians attack the flower, being defended well by armed guards. What movie was I watching at the time in that hotel room in 2002? A TV re-run of Conan The Barbarian!

Hotel Art Intervention Project 2002

Here's the piece back in 2002, unframed on my hotel bed and ready to be improved


Hotel Art Intervention Project 2002

Here's a close up of the "improved" flower poster

Hotel Art Intervention Project 2002

Here's a close up of one of the bulbs showing the furious action going on

Then, I re-discovered that in this particular instance I had done a second drawing on the back of the frame. I used the nice masonite backing to do a quick charcoal and conte drawing: two for the price of one!

Hotel Art Intervention Project 2002

Here's the "extra" piece of art done on the back of the frame

I never did check when I was in the room to see if that drawing is still on the back of the frame. It is probably impossible to do so anyway, as the wall decor in most hotels these days are anchored to the wall in such a way that it takes a concentrated effort to get them off the wall (as if anyone would steal it?).

Hotel Art Intervention Project 2002

Here's a close up of the drawing on the back of the frame


I'm not saying anything, but I feel the jihad rekindling!

Hotel Art Intervention Project 2002

And here's the room, in case you ever happen to be out West

7 comments:

Elizabeth Seaver said...

Great tale, and what improvement you made to the original hotel piece!

anne said...

hehehe! i wonder what the odds are of an artist of the hotel pieces ever seeing these improved pieces.

Rogerrr said...

I wonder how many artists do things like this?

A few years ago I was travelling in Utah with a model. She mentioned the hotel lobby had stacks of the Book of Mormon in many languages. I asked her to go back and get the thickest one.

I hollowed out the book & attached the lens&shutter from a Holga camera. The next day we took a nude photo of her out in the barren landscape with the Book of Mormon camera ( we called it the Mormoroid ).

Michael said...

That's funny, I like that idea. I had a friend that used to leave drawings in library books, not on the pages themselves but on its own piece of paper. I like the idea of artists leaving little treasures for people to discover.

Art Trip said...

That's hilarious! Though the quality of the hotels I go to have the pictures screwed to the wall through the frame or no pictures at all...

Terry Ward said...

WOW!
Two wows!
The first wow is for doing that ---splendid. What a hoot.
The other wow is for finding one of your own pieces years later ---incredible.

I share your anti-hotel-art feelings.
My own outlet took a different turn: I located one of the foreign sweatshops that crank out the factory art (this place was in Xiamen, China) and obtained a bundle of "original" oil "artwork" ---most of it multiple copies of the same still life (how "original") and a few Tuscan landscapes, Paris cafes, wine arts, and sentimental kids-on-the-beach twaddlescapes.

These I took to my paper-cutter.

The bits are collages into my Series 20 and Series 21 (one of them nicknamed "WineArt SwineFart").

A specimen (detail):
http://www.artandjunk.com/cgi-bin/i/art-tw-series20/ward_series20_zzzdetail-typical01.jpg

Folder of pics:
http://www.artandjunk.com/art-tw-series20/?thumb=1

(They're 8 long panels wired for omnidirectional hanging, that's why some are in a block, some in a line, some in a jumble.)

What a great story of yours. Thanks for the smiles.

Anonymous said...

"It is probably impossible to do so anyway, as the wall decor in most hotels these days are anchored to the wall in such a way that it takes a concentrated effort to get them off the wall (as if anyone would steal it?)."

I heard a rumor that all hotels had started anchoring art tot he walls because of some rogue artist who had been tampering with the art. ;)