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7/3/2008

Art

COUPLE OF CREATIVES
Andrew White and Brigan Gresh stand on their own.
Photo by Carlos Amoedo

 

For a local artist, this story is a memorable calling card: When Andrew “Drew” White, a native of Pittsburgh, moved here from the D.C. area in 1990, he had the honor of having one of his creations censored at a show – at the Edge, a former downtown dance club that was the center of cool. White says the sculpture was “a human form with a baby coming out of its abdomen, and the head rotated, and it played a lullaby.” During a rave, the clients were freaking out about the piece.

“If I remember correctly [the rave promoter] said, ‘Wow, that’s just too heavy,’” White says. They ended up throwing a blanket over it.

The Edge is gone; White is still here.

And he’s got a lot going on. So does Brigan Gresh, his girlfriend of 14 years and an artist in her own right. They’re partners in many creative pursuits, and their give-and-take, back-and-forth is nicely illustrated by the fact that as his show Stuffed closes Thursday, July 3, at Stardust Video and Coffee, hers, Aftermath, opens just two days later at Pound Gallery at CityArts Factory and continues through the end of the month. And on Aug. 2, White’s next solo show opens at Pound.

“We keep each other inspired,” but not in a competitive sense, says Gresh. The multimedia artist’s upcoming Aftermath exhibit reflects the impact that life events have upon us – “the sensations that remain when something has left a mark,” she writes in a website description of the show. The couple’s experience of Gresh’s mother passing away and Gresh’s own experiences as a birthing doula – accustomed to seeing life come into the world and then watching it pass out of it – has been largely influential on her work.

“We’re not just on the same track,” White says. “We’re on the same train.” In fact, the works of art in White’s Stuffed grew out of an installation the couple did together called Stalking Mother Goose, in which justice is sought by that childhood icon’s put-upon characters.

There are a lot of ways you could know Drew White – as the owner of the company Lot 1433, as a designer of furniture and work spaces, as a curator/facilitator for the Orlando arts community. I’ve just met him as a painter, a painter whose show Stuffed I was instantly smitten with because it seemed … to put adorable things in peril.

Take the bunny, for example, a small, lonesome, hopeful figure on a vast, dark canvas. White’s use of that negative space means you don’t even know what danger he’s facing or if it is danger at all.

“You don’t know if they’re the ones responsible for the apocalypse,” White says of his Stuffed creatures. Some of them have “a look in their eye that’s like ‘I’m watching this because I did it.’”

White’s ability to draw others in, to engage, is a positive trait for a curator. He’s in his second year in that office for Stardust, has just been hired as curator for Pound and guest-curates at Bay Two. (He is organizing another exhibit at Bay Two to open July 12 and hopes to have 20 participating artists.)

It’s lucky timing that White and Gresh are both enjoying solo shows this summer at the places White curates; those dates were set up well in advance of his hiring at Pound. “We usually do solo shows once a year … and now, this year, it’s even less,” White says.

“I really like to open up a lot of experiences for other artists, especially artists that don’t know how to do it for themselves,” he says. “You’re spilling yourself for people to see, you’re opening yourself up and trying to sell it,” and some artists take it hard when those sales don’t happen. “Patience is key,” he says. It takes a lot of commitment.

As Orlando’s art scene has grown more competitive over the last few years, he’s developed some practical advice for emerging artists who want the public eye. “[They should have] a digital portfolio at least, some quality photos, some sort of a polished bio or résumé. Even if you don’t have experience showing, you should still put something together that shows you’re professional and let the work speak for itself.”

In addition to their myriad projects, White and Gresh recently finished supplying the art for a restaurant in Chicago, an upscale churrascaria called Zed451 that is soon to open an outlet on I-Drive.

And they are working on a film together. Both were scenic artists for From the Earth to the Moon (1998) and The Blair Witch Project (1999), and White art-directed Sydney White (2007). I ask him if there’s a dream film he’d like to work on. His eyes widen with the idea.

“I would love to write and direct an epic, apocalyptic, huge, grandiose, massive, end-of-the-universe thing,” he says, if he had the budget.

“Like The Lord of the Rings?” I kid.

“Oh yeah, it’d be bigger than that,” he says.

And why not? Just like that bunny, White might be responsible for a very entertaining apocalypse.

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