Process comes in pieces
O’Day displays his explosive collection
Artist Tom O’Day doesn’t hesitate to destroy his own works.
When he needed to make room in his studio in 1994, O’Day didn’t sell his pieces. He simply blew them up with professional-grade plastic explosives.
Of course, O’Day wanted to get rid of some of his art, but the explosion was about something bigger than that: showcasing change through time and trial, a concept that became the focus of O’Day’s art years ago.
“I just decided that (the art) wasn’t going to sit still in the studios,” he said. “The work is really about process. For me, it’s like these things are always in transition, like we are.”
The hundreds of bits and pieces O’Day gathered from the explosion and all the other works from his studio will be on display in the Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University starting Thursday. The exhibition, “Out of order/in between,” runs through Aug. 31. It’s part of the gallery’s new series of summer exhibitions titled “Close-In,” highlighting local artists.
The exhibition marks the first time all of O’Day’s work will be on display in one gallery.
Karen Kaiser, the interim director of the museum, chose the name “Close-In” with the intention that using a portion of the venue would provide an intimate space for artists to show work. But O’Day decided he wanted to use the whole 2,800-square-foot space for his exhibition.
“It’s a lot of work to ask an artist to fill that gallery in a month,” Kaiser said. “It’s almost impossible.”
More than 100 works will be featured in the event, but O’Day considers them parts of one larger piece that is always changing. The show will also feature video and documentation of O’Day’s works in their transitional phases.
O’Day has been a fine arts instructor at Spokane Falls Community College since 1986. He became known for running an art disposal service in which he would take others’ unwanted art and use it in his own projects. Those projects involve freezing, burning, shredding and even burying art, followed by an exhumation 20 years later.
Though O’Day’s art has been featured in numerous galleries over the past three decades, the Jundt setting makes for a unique opportunity, he said.
“The space is beautiful,” O’Day said. “The contrast of such a pristine space with the work that I do is interesting to me.”
Kaiser chose O’Day to kick off the series because she likes his work, he’s a friend and she knew he would have enough material to fill the gallery.
“He always has work going on in his studio,” she said. “That was important because there was no time to prepare for the show, so he had to go with what he had.”
Kaiser hopes those who visit O’Day’s exhibition will leave with a deeper appreciation for what goes into creating art.
“Tom’s work is more about process than the finished art project,” she said. “It’s thought-provoking and it speaks to the unfinished nature of what an artist does all the time.”