Christopher Blay's work functions on borderlines. If life is a Venn diagram, he's creating art in the overlaps. He wants to ask questions, start conversations, and challenge the viewer to see things "outside of their bubble." As it happens, earlier this year he built himself into a bubble for Deep Ellum Windows that forced the viewer to confront both him and his sculptural installation in a new way.
This idea of audience/artist confab is the focus of Blay's Satellites, which opens at Central Trak Saturday. But like much of his oeuvre, this sculptural installation lives beyond conceptualism, asking both art insiders and outsiders how to expand communication in the arts.
"The sculpture is a metaphor for communication," says Blay. "But I also created a video component that has people address the question in a direct way. I don't hope to find one right way for people communicate with art, I just want to recognize that there are these two clusters of people."
For Satellites, Blay's metaphoric sculpture has a strong science fiction aesthetic. He was interested more in the mid 20th century's futuristic predictions than in the realities of today. "Think parabolas, shiny objects and lots of knobs," he says. It connects more with the viewer's connotations of a satellite, operating as a conversation piece, as much as a sculpture.
Last year, Art & Seek aptly labeled Blay "Fort Worth's curator of people." But for Blay, it's just a function of being an artist. Would he keep doing art without an audience? Sure, he says, "But I'm obviously not doing it just for myself. So I'm constantly asking myself, 'How do I want this to connect with the viewer?'"
In collaboration with BC Workshop, Blay built a replica of Noah's Ark in Oak Cliff that underlined the flood of residential vacancies in the 10th Street Historic District. It functioned as a place for community gatherings, discussions, and generated conversation about ways for improvement. And while his work can only skim the surface of the bigger issues, he's interested in creating that first ripple.
Through December, Blay is in residency at Central Trak, which means he'll be skipping even more rocks along the edge of the artistic shores of Dallas. And when it comes to creating conversation, particularly about the intersection of art and its audience, there's no better milieu than Central Trak - where these topics are part of the regular programming, both in exhibitions, panels and in the space's very architecture. Just last week, THWRD magazine's Lee Escobedo hosted a panel about music in Dallas and the topic of attendance crossover between the arts arose. Plus, living amongst artists behind a gallery that's open to the public is a daily reminder that there is a necessary balance between the creation and presentation of the arts. Central Trak is like a friendly handshake between the insular art world and the curious outsider.
"One of the things I want to do with my time here is to look at how Central Trak communicates with its community," says Blay. "I'm looking at borders between institutions, between this place and the people who visit."
See Satellites at the opening reception from 8- 10 p.m. Saturday, or through September 23.
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