The “Famous Dead Artists” — who are very much alive — are having a 20-year reunion show at CityArts. These nine artists, who at one time all resided in Wichita, are not yet pushing up daisies.
But they thought they would be more famous if they were.
“Most of the general public only know the dead artists,” said Famous Dead Artist Christopher Gulick. They do a tongue-in-cheek reference to the dead, he said.
In May 1993, eight artists — Gulick, Marc Bosworth, Wade Hampton, Brad Hart, Leigh Leighton-Wallace, Scott Steele, Pam Terry and Jennifer Wallace — had their first show at the Famous Dead Artists’ Gallery in Old Town. Their shows’ titles, like the artwork within them, were creative. “Pain Is a Flavor: The Exploded View” and “Manipulations: The Exploded View” were names of the group’s first two shows. After the gallery closed, the artists continued to have shows with interesting names: “Resurrected,” “Decomposition” and “Night of the Living Famous Dead Artists.”
When CityArts opened on Lewis Street, the Famous Dead Artists mounted “X” in 1998 and “Road Kill” in 2001. The next year, their show, at a different gallery, was titled: “Create or Die.” In 2004, the Famous Dead Artists hung their last show, “Dead on Arrival,” at CityArts.
Now, about a decade later, the group of friends decided to reunite at CityArts with “Pushin’ Up Daisies: Famous Dead Artists 20th Anniversary Exhibit. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something … Dead.”
“We want to show some of the new kids that we get together, work together and work on our own,” Gulick said. “We collaborate.”
Several of the artists have moved out of town, but all of them will be back at various times throughout the run of the show. Curt Clonts also joined the group.
Each artist has at least one new piece in the show — most have several. Besides new exhibits, the artists have collected some older works from patrons and each other.
“It’s a really nice gallery space, and we added our flavor to it by packing it in,” Bosworth said. “It’s been really fun.”
The more than 140 collages, sculptures, acrylics and printed pieces are tightly hung on the gallery’s neutral walls.
Bosworth, who earned a bachelor of fine arts in drawing from Arizona State University and a master of fine arts in printmaking from Wichita State University, submitted a 5-foot-by-4-foot collage and acrylic work to the show.
“It’s made up of a bunch of weird shapes,” Bosworth said. “The different shapes are kind of like a map.”
Bosworth, who grew up in Bismarck, N.D., felt that the piece represented a metaphor for life’s journey. The maps are literal and physical.
Another realistic element in the large work is a child playing baseball, a sport the artist played with his six brothers.
Gulick, on the other hand, creates mobiles that are non-objective — they don’t have a subject. Most are formed out of metal.
Suspended sculptures seem to be a way for him to think outside the box, Gulick said. He submitted a blue and green mobile entitled “Flint Hills.”
This reunion has created a new sense of comradery for this not-yet-dead group of artists.
“I feel great about it (the show),” Gulick said. “Everybody is happy that the show is happening. It’s just got a good vibe to it.”