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Artisans Offer Monster ‘mashup’

New gallery show highlights collaborations of distinct artistic styles.

One of the most popular trends of the digital music age is that of the "Mashup": taking two or more tracks from completely different genres and combining them to make a new composition. Like, for example, DJ Danger Mouse’s acclaimed "The Grey Album," which mixed music from The Beatles’ "The White Album" with vocals from rapper Jay-Z’s "The Black Album" to create tracks that combined such disparate songs as "Justify My Thug" and "Rocky Raccoon."

That maverick collaborative spirit is at the heart of "mashup," the new exhibit by the Del Ray Artisans, running through Aug. 26 at their gallery on 2704 Mount Vernon Ave. Along with nearly 100 solo pieces by the featured artists — Barbara Boehm, Judi Branson, Linda Elliff and Joan Ulrich — there are several "mashups" in which they teamed together, using their various expertise to shape new, distinct creations.

Elliff and Ulrich collaborated on four of those "mashups," combining beadwork with stoneware.

"Joan had to be willing to give up her pottery and let someone else do something to it," said Elliff, standing with Ulrich at last Friday night’s reception at the Nicholas A. Colasanto Center. "She had to lose control, and I have to think that would be hard. I had the final step in it, so it kind of came out the way I envisioned it rather than the way you envisioned it."

"But that was OK," Ulrich interjected. "I was surprised when I saw what you had done. I didn’t have the imagination for that. I don’t even understand what her materials are."

"And I don’t even understand her materials or her creative process," said Elliff.

Yet the two combined to create pieces like a melted a buckled "Blue Belted Bottle," one of three pieces raffled off at the reception, along with other pieces that incorporated Elliff’s use of found materials and mirrors.

"When we first got together, I knew the two main things that Linda did: the compositions with the mirrors and the found objects, and I knew she did the jewelry," said Ulrich.

"I knew Linda could make a bracelet, so I would make a pot thinking about where she might be able to place it," she said.

"There were some things I was really delighted with, that I wouldn’t have thought to do."

IN THE MIDDLE of the gallery during the reception was a table that looked more at home on the set of a Food Network program than an art center. Little bowls were filled with olives, chives, bacon bits and cheese; next to them, a large container filled with mashed potatoes. In a bit culinary symbolism, visitors to the gallery that evening could have their dressed up potatoes in an unusual bowl: a cocktail glass, in keeping with the spirit of the "mashup" culture clash.

Many of the show’s solo creations were collisions between high-concept art and traditional materials. Branson used food as her inspiration on several pieces, drawing on her family’s history with truck-stop diners. Her encaustic "Drip Coffee" featured four layers of paints and bases along with actual coffee beans. "I put the beans on; they said I just had to press them in, but I didn’t trust it. So I dropped a little medium on each of the beans," she said.

Elliff had several pieces that made mirrors out of items like tea serving sets.

"I was actually inspired with some yard sculptures that I saw — old plumbing pieces and silver pieces, with a tea pot on a tray for a birdfeeder," she said.

Elliff started collecting items to mimic those sculptures, but never got around to using them. One day she found the box in her basement, and began fiddling with the artist fodder. "I thought that maybe mirrors would be more of my thing. Kind of fun and funkier," she said.

The result was a piece like her "Oval Silver Wall Mirror with heart in spoon," which featured elements of silver serving trays and other domestic metals.

"My family is in the jewelry business, so I think I grew up with a love of all that details: the intricate engraving, the embossed trays and the pretty little things around the house. Nowadays, people aren’t using them, and you find a lot of them at yard sales and flea markets," she said.

DANGLING ABOVE the gallery floor was one of Elliff’s most ambitious pieces: "High Tea," a tea setting on a weathered wooden table that hung from the ceiling.

She said she finished the 3-D collage about two weeks before the show opened. "It’s a brand new piece, but it’s been in my head for a couple of years," she said.

In keeping with the spirit of "mashups," Elliff incorporated another artist’s work into "High Tea."

"This is Joan’s tea pot," she said, pointing at the ceiling to Ulrich’s ceramic work. "She gave me that tea pot a year ago. She wasn’t happy with the way it turned out."

Ulrich smiled while looking up at Elliff’s piece. "I had a glaze adventure," she said.

"But I knew exactly where it was going," said Elliff.