Noblesville native Asa Gauen ("gow-win") has a keen eye for the visual. His background in photography and mixed media art forms like bookmaking have led to his current work as a printmaker, videographer and multimedia storyteller. Now a resident of Brooklyn, Gauen is back in Indy for the next few months as a visiting artist of the Harrison Center for the Arts. He was introduced to the HCA last December through painter Kyle Ragsdale who has a studio there, and he reached out to Executive Director Joanna Taft about returning in the summer to work on a project. The two decided on a video residency, which finds Gauen working on a Studio Visits series of the center's artists. He seized the opportunity to be with family for the summer and "do something really cool that I wanted to do."
The Studio Visits videos are generally no longer than three minutes: "This is a glimpse into their work instead of telling their life story," Gauen says. He tries to shoot one video a week and hopes to document visits with all of the Harrison's artists -- some 30 in all. To date, he's interviewed painters Carolyn Springer, Bobby Gilbreath, and Josh Rush; self-identified "junk artist" Kipp Normand and jewelry-maker Allison Ford; and painter/furniture-maker Atsu Kpotufe and painter/photographer Erin Hüber (read Sky Blue Window's profile of Hüber here). Gauen's goal is to promote the HCA beyond its First Friday events and make the visitor experience more rewarding.
Gauen became involved with the Harrison Center because of a "multimedia storytelling event" he started with his cousin, Eric Gauen, called Start the Car. The cousins have their own act - Asa performs stories while Eric accompanies on a musical instrument. The series got its start in Brooklyn in 2012 at a Christmas party. Other performances have taken place in Nashville, Tennessee, and in Indy. Each show has an open-ended theme, such as stories of change. The storyteller artists who participate in the events generally tell tales based on personal experience, combined with visuals (mostly illustrations) that Gauen describes as a "super cool PowerPoint presentation." The shows last about an hour and Gauen hopes to see the series continue across the country: "It's an art form -- not a lot of people are doing it." (See a short video of Gauen performing his story, "Snakebones," at a 2013 event here.)
Of the Start the Car experience, Gauen says attendees walk away with the feeling that they've seen a live movie instead of just attending a reading where an author is reciting from a page. The project evolved from Gauen being "drawn to something with a narrative structure" while he also promotes the use of images. "A lot of emotions come with visuals that you can't get with words," he says. The cousins have hosted two shows at the Harrison to date, Comebacks and Benefit of the Doubt, and have plans for more storytelling events in the future.
A 2009 graduate of the School of Visual Arts, Gauen is interested in community art making. He's involved in another side project called Personal Desire Propaganda (PDP), a printmaking project he's worked on in New York. The project is open to anyone who can make prints and currently has about 30 participants. Artwork concepts relate to a personal desire of the artist. "The point is to get our desires out into the world in an art form," Gauen says. Gauen's print, The Lights, is an illustration of an illuminated baseball field, but has a deeper meaning. Gauen describes the lights as a symbol of nostalgia and the "reinterpretation and reinvention of the American dream that we all have." The print speaks to Gauen's memories of growing up with baseball: "It's a Field of Dreams kind of thing," he says. The piece carries a sense of mystery because the lights shine on a field the viewer can't see, leaving the art open to multiple interpretations. While one might joke that getting rich is a personal desire, Gauen's project is not a moneymaking venture for him or his partners. Prints sell for $10 each and 100 percent of the profit goes back to the artist. PDP has had shows in New York, Denver, Columbus (OH), and Berlin, all in 2013. Gauen aims to have a show in Indy at some point. Hopefully last summer's successful Kickstarter will work towards that goal.
Keep an eye out for future Start the Car performances at the Harrison and watch the Harrison Center's Vimeo page for more Studio Visits videos. Learn more about Gauen's work on his website or on Facebook.