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"Family Rainbow" by Jan Shropshire (Photo courtesy Iridian Gallery)
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“Overcoat” by Michael-Birch Pierce (Photo courtesy Iridian Gallery)
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A piece by Debbie Quick (Photo courtesy Iridian Gallery))
The year-old Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond brings in the holiday season with an auction of the works of more than 50 artists in an event themed “Bling It Out!” There is an art preview and Maker Day Saturday, Dec. 3, from 1 to 5 p.m. and a silent auction and party Friday, Dec. 9, from 7 to 10 p.m. The events are free and open to the public.
Designer and gallery steering committee member Lisa Cumbey explains the event's theme of "upcycling," or recycling materials found in the aisles of adjacent Diversity Thrift. The theme highlights both the proximity of the gallery to the store, she says, but also a method of art that utilizes found objects and the creation of “readymades."
Cumbey says, “It’s unusual to have so many people come into the store and then they go into the gallery and experience art that they might not have any other way.”
There’ve been a few variants of an on-premises gallery, but not until last year did the space establish an identity. Cumbey says that when Diversity underwent rebranding, the decision was made, “To not just have a place where they stick art but make it a gallery with programmed exhibitions.” She says that Iridian is billed as “one of the few” galleries specifically for the LGBTQ community; in their research, they’ve not found another. “That’s not to say we aren’t going to show other kinds of work, but, it’s very much focused on that experience.” The gallery is booked though mid-2018.
"Bling it Out!" co-chair, artist and professor Chris Norris says that a primary reason for the exhibition and auction is to bring attention to Iridian. “We’re not right on Broad Street,” he says. “We’re a little off the familiar trail. So we want people to know that we’re here.”
Norris some time ago assigned students a project based on the program “Pimp My Ride.” “I’d have students upcycle objects, so the steering committee played with that idea in creating something unique to the Iridian.”
Artists were invited to participate. “I was hoping for 10, and now we have more than 50, which is kind of amazing,” Norris says. This is the first event of its kind at the gallery; thus, as with everything of that sort, there is some anticipation about what may happen.
Participating artists used items found at Diversity Thrift, some of them nearing the end of their intended useful life. They tend then to be three-dimensional, and many of the artists are taking the “bling” description seriously, utilizing shimmering attachments and flashy finishes. “We’re certainly intrigued by how this’ll turn out,” Norris says. “People are really investing themselves in their pieces.”
A number of the artists will work in the gallery on Dec. 3 from 1 to 5 p.m., and the public may preview the results that day. “They’ll be finishing their pieces while in the gallery,” Norris says.
An exhibit reception on Dec. 9 from 7 to 10 p.m. includes a silent auction. The pieces will be judged by former Virginia Commonwealth University professor and VCUArts dean, sculptor Joe Seipel. One winner will receive a $300 prize package; the sponsors are Quirk Gallery and the Plaza Art supply store. “It’s open to the public, and when you purchase your item, you can walk out the door,” Norris says. “Whatever’s left will stay in the gallery until after the holidays.”
Opening bid for all “Bling it Out!” art is $25.