You might have spotted billboards around Southwest Michigan advertising something a little different—local art. On Friday night from 5:30 to 7:30, you can meet the ten artists who won this year’s Billboard Art Contest at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Their work will be on display at the KIA. One of the artists is Paul Marquardt who works out of his home studio.
“Working at home suits the way I work,” says Marquardt. “The work that I’m doing is such a part of my life that it makes sense to live with it. I don’t keep 9- 5 hours. There’s plenty to do. That’s for sure.”
Because his work is so diverse in media, he has several studios in his home dedicated to specific needs. Marquart spends a large part of his time at his computer because a large part of his work is done digitally. An extra bedroom houses a forty-four inch wide, twelve-color printer that makes archival prints.
“It really is very nice to have my own printer," says Marquardt. "I can do my own proofing. I can calibrate it so that I get the results that I want.”
Marquardt has a masters degree in fine arts, specializing in printmaking.
“It was before we had digital technologies,” Marquardt says. “So, I know all of the old processes, but what I bring to this newer digital media is a sensitivity to the materials. What kind of papers am I using? The archival qualities.”
In his large ranch-house basement, Marquardt has a photo studio and a room for working with dust-making materials. Marquardt works in many different media to conceptualize his vision.
“The work is content driven," says Marquardt. "If it’s a piece that requires some kind of three-dimensionality, like a sculptural work, I’ll work with materials that suit that space. Whether it’s LED lighting with different kinds of panels or whether it’s a 2D situation that needs something on the wall. It really depends where the piece is going to be exhibited and what the content seems to requite.”
The art on the billboard is titled, Written Rose.
“The piece is about our legacy," Marquardt says. "It’s composed of a rose. It’s this dried up rose and on it is script. And, the script came from letters that were written between United States and England from 1897 to 1907. I took the script and applied it to the petals.”
The script was applied to the photograph of the rose digitally. The physical art is a photographic print. Farrell Howe, the Marketing and PR Coordinator fir the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts explains how the Billboard Art Contest works:
“Adams Outdoor Advertising had approached the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and said, ‘We have public service announcement space and we were thinking, what about promoting local artists? So, they came to the KIA and said, ‘Would you be interested in partnering with us?” It’s the second year of the contest. There were close to a hundred artists who applied to the jury. Twenty were selected for an on-line voting competition," says Howe. “This was our way to get the public involved and say this is what we are doing. We’re trying to promote local artists. Come here and vote for your favorite artist.”
Marquardt says that the Billboard Contest is a very nice thing for the community.
“It’s just another one of those extra things that we have in Kalamazoo that raises the quality of life," says Marquardt. "For an artist it’s a wonderful opportunity to get some exposure in the area and in the region actually because the works are spread out. More than just in Kalamazoo.”
Marquardt says he is appreciative of the KIA and Howe for making this opportunity for artists.