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Couple curates non-institutional art in front Yard display 

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click to enlarge LAURA EURICH
  • Laura Eurich
“Untitled (Study of Charring Wood and Burning Structures II)” by New York City-based, Finnish artist Laura Lappi is a piece of public art that you probably haven’t seen, unless you’ve passed through the Divine Redeemer neighborhood.

The work, on display since late January, sits in The Yard. (Don’t bother Googling that, unless you need some yard work done, it doesn’t show up in the first three pages or so of results.)

The Yard refers to the front yard of Jessica Langley and Ben Kinsley, artists and educators who moved here last year when Kinsley got a job teaching in the visual and performing arts department at UCCS, where I also teach. The Yard is an extension of a project from their time living in New York City: The Stephen and George Laundry Line. For nearly two years, Langley curated a monthly show on their laundry line that hung three stories above the courtyard behind their apartment, and she hosted openings in their small NYC kitchen.

“I wanted to be proactive giving artists opportunities in my community,” Langley says, explaining they wanted to create that opportunity for their peers using whatever means they had. And what they had was a laundry line. Kinsley says artists were given simple directions: The art would need to stand up to being outside for a month, and it couldn’t weigh more than a wet load of laundry.

Over the last 15 years, the couple has also lived in Reykjavik, Berlin, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and traveled extensively, connecting them to an international artist community. They are working with a Denver-based artist for an upcoming display while they continue to learn more about this region and its artists, but Kinsley says, “we thought it would be interesting to use the context of The Yard to bring voices from all over the world into communication with the local. But we really don’t have a set way we are doing things yet, and I imagine ... the process will always be a bit spontaneous. We don’t have a real budget, nor a board of directors. It’s just Jessica and me making the decisions. And that’s what keeps it exciting for us.”
With The Yard, Kinsley says they wanted to continue to find non-institutional ways of making art in public space, and a laundry line was nixed, as it would be in their private backyard. Instead, they considered the front yard, something that Langley feels functions as a semi-public, semi-private space. “It’s private property, but everyone sees it.”

Lappi’s work stands as their second front-yard display. The first was “Untitled (Current Mood)” by North Carolina-based artist Jerstin Crosby — a profile of a face that looked like an archway over the sidewalk to their front door. They plan on keeping each structure in place for about three months.

If you drive by on most days, you would likely notice the tall wood structure, but might think it’s nothing more than an interesting yard ornament. Catch it at the right time — and we’re talking about a 90-second window of opportunity — and you might be tempted to call the fire department as smoke billows from the cracks between the pieces of the charred wood. The smoke comes from a smoke bomb and lasts just a short time before the cloud dissipates into the air.

When I arrived at their house, Kinsley asked if we were under a red-flag warning, not wanting to ignite a smoke bomb if that were the case. The bombs are not flame-based, but start with a bit of a spark (his thumb was slightly charred by one early ignition) and given the drought conditions, best to play it safe. I managed to visit their home on one of the few days without wind (and yes, the entire structure tumbled over on one windy day), so as dusk settled on the yard, we went out front to smoke, so to speak.

As Kinsley ignited the smoke bomb, a neighbor shuffled across the street in his moccasins. Having just lived in the house for a few months, the couple hasn’t met all the neighbors, this man named Rob being one of them. Rob launches in with questions, admiring the angles and pointing out that he has the best view of the piece from his front windows. “The neighborhood loves it,” he says.

For Rob’s benefit, Kinsley sets off a second smoke bomb.

The Yard sits on North Logan Avenue. To find the exact location, get the geographic coordinates from the website, whatsintheyard.com. They regularly update images on the Instagram account yard_public. Lappi’s work will be on display until mid-May, when a new work from a Canadian artists collaborative called Fastwürms will be installed.

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