In art, a simple pun can easily take on a life of its own. This is what happened to Hugh Margerum after a seemingly inconsequential exchange a few years ago with Keith Puccinelli. When the two artists discovered that each had collected spherical objects for a number of years and that these objects were stored in their respective studios, the discussion perhaps inevitably involved more than a few cracks about “having balls” and that it “takes balls” to be an artist, etc. Puccinelli followed up by sending Margerum a sketch describing a way that their collections could become the basis of an exhibition.
Although this idea never came to pass, and Margerum’s and Puccinelli’s ball collections remain tucked away in their studios, their half-joking, half-serious references to artists’ balls nevertheless continued to gather momentum. Through a series of conversations crowded with countless double entendres, the idea of a ball show at The Arts Fund coalesced. On Friday, December 11, nine artists — Margerum and Puccinelli, along with Ann Diener, Julia Ford, Carlos Grano, Colin Gray, Giuliana Mottin, Tom Stanley, and Dug Uyesaka — will exhibit works inspired by the theme, and their balls will be on view until January 30, 2016.
In addition, there is the Ball Wall, an ingenious public-participation element to the show that’s wonderfully appropriate to the holiday season. Margerum has obtained a supply of “blank canvas” plastic spheres from the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. These balls are available free to artists in the community who wish to transform them through painting, drilling, collaging, puncturing, or filling them; those balls completed by December 4 will be displayed as part of the Ball Wall section of the Arts Fund show. These unique individual works will be available for purchase at the uniform price of $100, with the proceeds going to benefit The Arts Fund.
Although any resemblance between the balls on the Ball Wall and the spheres that traditionally decorate Christmas trees is purely coincidental, the fact that they will make great ornaments can’t hurt a show that occupies so many of the shopping days before Christmas. Perhaps the ball show will become another Santa Barbara holiday tradition, following in the seasonal tracks of Spencer the Gardener’s “The Gobble Song” and Brad Nack’s annual 100% Reindeer Art show (which takes place this year on Thursday, December 3, at Roy). Whether you take a philosophical approach like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote that “the crystal sphere of thought is as concentrical as the geological structure of the globe,” or your attitude toward balls is more down-to-earth, like Emerson’s fellow New England patriot, Tom Brady, who famously remarked, “when I felt them, they were perfect,” you are sure to find something that captures your imagination at Artists’ Balls.