Captured on tape: Craigslist in all its humanity

Tape Classified. Though it may sound like a chapter in a book on the Watergate scandal, in this case, those two loaded words are meant to be taken literally as the title and source materials for the first mural installed in the warehouse-sized West Gallery of 870 Raymond, the latest addition to Art Center’s South Campus complex.

Measuring just shy of 70 feet, the installation consists of student-created images made from black drafting tape inspired by ads on Craigslist. The mural’s concept was rooted in the students’ desire to tell many loosely connected stories—each sharing the same narrative DNA from a community. The idea is based on one person’s trash (or Mid-Century Womb Chair) is inevitably another person’s treasure.

Instructor Brian Rea is thrilled with the results. “This one mural tells 80 stories with individual illustrations,” says Rea. “With eight different students, all with different styles, different attitudes; it’s been really interesting to try and systemize that on a wall.”

The team is currently producing a booklet to accompany the mural, which will include the complete set of original Craigslist ads that inspired each mural image. The goal of the project was to create an interactive mural, causing viewers to ask questions or dive deeper to discover the connected ad. “Craigslist offered an endless supply of strange moments of humanity and absurdity,” said 6th term Illustration student Addison Eaton, adding that “the illustrations are successful precisely because they don’t reveal the story too quickly.”

For example, a bowl full of noodles featuring a winking set of eyes was based on an ad from the ‘Missed Connections’ section of Craigslist: the page dedicated to readers seeking to reconnect with the one that got away. The message reading, “please speak slowly and clearly” was lifted from an ad for a portable commode. An image of a fierce possum was inspired by an ad in which the author was hoping to find the animal dead or, preferably, alive, for $30.

The concept offers interesting psychological implications expanding beyond the sale of goods and services. In a sense, the mural itself functions as a kind of window onto the world of social networking and personal classified messages.

The students relished the opportunity to work with black tape, praising its clean simplicity. “For a student who has never worked quite this large (the wall is close to 80 feet in length) it can be intimidating to begin painting something permanent,” explains Rea. “Using tape as a tool allows for ‘errors,’ and then a discussion about decision making, and how to improve with adjustments. The tape provides a chance to learn these steps more efficiently and opens up conversations about basic shapes and relationships a permanent tool might not.”

The tape is an ideal material for Rea’s mural class because it makes the collaboration more about each person’s story rather than about their style. The class, titled “On the Fence,” was designed to attract those students interested in producing large-scale installations who straddle disciplines of Fine Art, Design and Illustration.

“The new 870 Raymond building is a wonderful space for the students and a class like ‘On the Fence,’” Rea says. “It’s a great space to work within, with excellent light and large installation areas. I’m excited to see what students do with it in the future.”

Stay tuned for more unusual class exercises from “On the Fence” this term. Hint: Watch for giant word sculptures to pop up around Hillside Campus in the coming weeks.

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