Flash Card Project showcases work by 50-plus Aspen area artists


What: The Flash Card Project

Where: R2 Gallery, Carbondale;

When: Friday, July 3 through July 31

More info: Silent auction open online open through July 29

The artist and curator Wewer Keohane conducted a visual survey of locally based artists during the stay-home period following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic this spring. The results — original, anxiety-filled works by 54 artists made during the quarantine period — are now on view online and at the R2 Gallery in Carbondale.

Keohane used language-learning flash cards as the starting point for the project, prompting artists to respond to the imagery and text on the randomly chosen cards. She sent invitations to about 75 artists, most of them locals and friends.

More than 50 artists accepted the challenge. Many artists, Keohane included, found themselves blocked during the stay-home period. The simple flash card prompt helped give them something creative to do and a way to channel all the fear and uncertainty of this historic moment.

“It’s turned out to be a healing arts event as much as it is a fine arts event,” Keohane said this week.

Her packrat tendencies have often informed and shaped her artwork — memorably making works from ephemera like shooting targets, paper fans and fortune cookies that she’s collected over the years. The flash cards turned up as she was procrastinating and cleaning her studio early in the quarantine period in March.

“At the beginning of the isolation I decided to just be in the studio as much as I could, but I wasn’t feeling creative,” Keohane recalled.

She ended up cleaning, rearranging, painting the floors, cataloging odds and ends. And she came across these language cards. She thinks she bought them in 1996, either at an antique barn or at the old Glenwood Springs thrift shop. At first Keohane thought she might make a collage from them herself.

“I started going through them and I thought it would be fun to send to my friends during this time and give them a creative project,” she said. “Because I knew a lot of people who were not happy at that moment.”

She then wrote a proposal to Carbondale Arts to host the show in 2021. The nonprofit’s Brian Colley and Amy Kimberly jumped on the idea and proposed to host it sooner, as they were canceling out 2020 shows at the R2.

The responses from artists wowed Keohane and the Carbondale Arts team.

“People took it seriously,” Keohane said. “People really spent time with it. A lot of us talked about how all we could seem to do was clean our studios. Giving ourselves this project maybe was the shove a lot of us needed.”

Many responded viscerally and personally from quarantine. Some directly represented the pandemic in their artwork: Scott Keating painted a gold ring with the virus as the red and purple gem mounted on it; Nancy Lovendahl painted a hand working a bar of soap; Jocelyn Murray made an upside down question mark.

Lara Whitley’s response ended up being the centerpiece of the show. Responding to the hoarding witnessed at the outset of the pandemic, Whitley built a toilet paper and papier-mâché tree expected to stand 8 or 9 feet tall.

Keohane will have some flashcards available on site as takeaways, to be used as creative prompts by audience members. And Whitley’s piece, appropriate to the COVID-19 moment, includes free rolls of toilet paper for visitors to take home.