Saturday, March 10, 2018

Chewing Gum Art Revisited

Almost five years ago, I blogged about some tiny portraits that had been painted on blobs of chewing gum stuck to the sidewalk near the school where I work.

They're the product of artist Ben Wilson, and I checked up on them this week to see if they still exist. And they do! A bit worn and battered, but nonetheless still visible. That is some seriously super-durable chewing gum.

After all, who knows how long they'd been there before I blogged about them? Possibly years.

Wilson doesn't just paint on found gum. He developed a method that involves heating it with a blowtorch and applying several layers of lacquer to stabilize and harden his miniature artworks. These are probably portraits of people somehow associated with the area around the school -- they could even be from the school, though I don't recognize them.

It no doubt helps that these artworks are near the outer edge of the sidewalk, where there are light poles and other obstacles forcing most of the foot traffic to the center. They probably don't get stepped on that often.

I wonder if Wilson is still painting his chewing gum art? I haven't found any for a while, but then again, I haven't always been looking. Shame on me!


Vivian said...

Sometimes, I just wonder "Why?" Maybe I'm too Capricorn, but I wonder that if you have a desire to paint, and a little talent, why not NOT use old chewing gum for your canvas? Why not just go with, oh, I don't know...paper? I don't get what the message is, by using old chewing gum.

I had the same reaction when I saw a workshop given by a watercolor artist who taught people to open up old tea bags and paint on the thin paper. I mean, tea bag paper is utter crap when it comes to watercolor, but the students seemed charmed by the idea of painting on something that small. Did they not know that you can trim a good piece of paper into a 2-inch square?

I am Capricorn with Sagittarius rising, and I just don't get it.

Ms. Moon said...

Vivian has a good point. It takes all kinds of minds, I suppose, to decorate this crazy world.

Sharon said...

I would have thought these would be long gone. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Chewing gum art? Now there's an idea I would've never guessed. Crazy wacky and weird. Reminds me of the Marshall McLuhan quote: Art is anything you can get away with.

Red said...

I've never heard of chewing gum art. But then I live a very sheltered existence away from all the bright lights!

37paddington said...

It's endlessly fascinating to me the varied ways people find to create art.

Catalyst said...

As an acquaintance of mine from years ago would say, "beeee-zahrrrrr!"

Marty said...

As intriguing as these may be, I can't help but find them, well, yucky.

jenny_o said...

Not only does the man paint on spit-embued trash, he makes sure it will never get picked up and properly disposed of by blowtorching and lacquering it? I think I need to go back to bed and get up on a different side because that just sounds wrong to me - ha ha

He does do a good job on the painting aspect, though :)

Steve Reed said...

Vivian: The point, as I understand it, is to get people to notice their environment more. We'd normally zoom past a spot of gum without a second glance, right? But he's taken something mundane and turned it into something precious, which you'd only notice if you're moving slightly more slowly and mindfully. I think it's quite brilliant, actually. (I assume he also paints on paper or canvas or something more conventional, but I could be wrong!)

Ms Moon: Indeed it does, and thank goodness!

Sharon: They're incredibly durable, aren't they? As I said in the post, I think that's largely because they're out of the way of most of the foot traffic on the sidewalk.

Robin: Ha! I've never heard that McLuhan quote.

Red: I'd never heard of it either until I moved here!

37P: Isn't it great?

Catalyst: Indeed!

Marty: Yeah, I can see that. Again, though, I think the brilliance of the project lies in taking something "yucky" and making it beautiful or at least interesting.

Jenny-O: Well, it's stuck down to the sidewalk. It would never get picked up. It would just be a blackened spot like all the other chewing gum spots out there. And now it's not! :)