Though their methods differ, Wichita artist Sean Ward has a lot in common with Tibetan Buddhist monks.
It’s a tradition in Tibetan Buddhism to create sand mandalas, intricately detailed works of art crafted over a period of weeks using colored sand. Then, once the works are complete, they’re wiped away – symbolic of the impermanence of life.
Ward has adopted that concept for his latest show, set to open Friday at HUE Gallery of Contemporary Art, 430 S. Commerce.
“Chimera Effect” is a one-night-only exhibit that transforms the gallery space into a multisensory experience. The walls are painted with giant concentric circles that are then filled in using multicolored lights. It’s not the work of a projector, either – it’s old-fashioned can lights with colored theater gel.
There will be a haze machine running, laser lights shining and a DJ spinning live music.
Sean Ward, co-owner of HUE Gallery of Contemporary Art, documented the progression of “Chimera Effect” on Facebook.
But as surely as the show was crafted over the past three months, the painted walls will be wiped away a few weeks after January’s Final Friday, to be replaced by walls of solid white or gray.
“I want to bring out the art for one night, let everyone experience it and then move on to the next project, as warehouse-y or factory as that sounds,” he said. “It’s not as factory as it’s meant to sound.”
It’s atypical for a Final Friday opening, when artists put works on display that are ultimately for sale. At “Chimera Effect,” the only thing for sale is a 6-by-6-foot replica of some of the exhibit painted with a special acrylic that has a multicolor shine when exposed to light.
The show was paid for by Ward, who is co-owner of the gallery.
His aim, he said, is to get attendees to think about unity – in the multicolored lights working together to paint a white wall with color, in the DJ in the art gallery – however you want to interpret it.
“It’s literally about two things being able to work together for one cause,” Ward said. “It was surprising because that wasn’t the initial thing while I was building everything up. ... I was pretty much trying to make it to where someone could walk into one of my paintings.”
I was pretty much trying to make it to where someone could walk into one of my paintings.
Sean Ward, “Chimera Effect” artist
Ward’s primary painting subjects – pop culture figures – are popular with art buyers. His work has been purchased in nearly “every main big city in the U.S.,” he said.
He has a sizable online presence and is a member of Vango, a San Francisco-based online gallery, which led him to his biggest clients in 2016, he said.
“It’s been a good year, and this is also what helped pay for this,” Ward said. “If I didn’t have that type of year, I don’t know if I would have been able to do this.”
Another novel concept Ward is trying with “Chimera Effect” is the idea of goody bags for attendees. People who come to the show will leave with a bag full of business cards and fliers for various small businesses.
He offered local businesses the opportunity to advertise at the show for $50 to $100 and offered to let charities advertise for free, he said.
Half of the proceeds from the 6-by-6-foot piece – if it sells – will go to five charities, Ward said. Each charity will receive 10 percent of the money. Those five charities are KETCH, The Arc of Sedgwick County, Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County, GLSEN GreaterWichita and Let’s Rock & Roll & Change the World Inc.
“It goes back to that unity,” Ward said. “If you work together, you can make it so much easier in this world. I’ve seen the hard ends of it and the good ends. It’s so much easier and so much more fun, too.”
About two weeks after January’s Final Friday, the show will be painted over to make way for the gallery’s next opening in February.
But first there will be a break for Ward, who said he has put in more than 500 hours on “Chimera Effect,” typically working on it from 3 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day.
“I want to make people know I’m still sane after this by not dedicating my entire life to it,” he said. “It’s just one of those things.”
Sean Ward’s ‘Chimera Effect’
When: 6-10 p.m. Friday
Where: HUE Gallery of Contemporary Art, 430 S. Commerce
What: One-night-only show, constructed over three months, of paint, light and sound. It will be a one-in, one-out system, as HUE Gallery has an occupancy limit. Food truck LoLo’s Crepes will be outside.