Local artists Kat Wilson and Sarah Leflar were inspired by the small studio that stands in front of Leflar’s home on the outskirts of Fayetteville. Quaint and well-lit, with historical significance, they saw the studio hosting controversial traveling and local artists that could not be seen anywhere else in Northwest Arkansas.
“We have many friends who create beautiful art that we love, but we’re not asking them to show here because there are other places they can show. The kind of work they do, people have seen a lot of,” Leflar said. “We’re really looking for work that uses new media, that addresses political and social issues, controversy, and is antagonistic in someway.”
They’re calling the studio located at 1495 Finger Rd. in Fayetteville, Bottle Rocket Gallery. They have three artists lined up for the coming year, all of which touch on issues that make people think about and question the world around them.
This mission falls in line with the historical significance of the gallery itself and the craftsmen who created it. It was built and designed by Ozark craftsman Robert Runyan on the grounds of Gayeta Lodge, a home built and occupied by Arkansas writer Charles Joseph Finger in the early part of the 20th century. During his lifetime, Finger put great effort into bringing interesting intellectuals and artists from outside the area, to meet and talk with local residents.
The artists invited to Bottle Rocket Gallery will also get a chance to talk to the public at the University of Arkansas and during the opening show, which Wilson and Leflar want to stress as one of the most important parts to each of their installations. The exhibits will stay up for several weeks after, and available for viewing by appointment.
“We want to have a big, fun party with music and lots of people coming into see the art. Often, art openings can be kind of uneventful, but our focus is going to be on a lot of people coming and it being tremendous fun. People will be able to talk to the artist, and just show the artist his or her audience in Fayetteville,” Leflar said.
The first show is scheduled to open on Sept. 20. Entitled Makeshift Theatre, it features award-winning photographer Logan Rollins, whose work explores issues of homosexual identity and queer art — a form of art growing in popularity throughout the country. Makeshift Theatre, he said, “begins with the mantra ‘so bad it’s good,’ and examines the relationship between camp and homosexual identity.” Wilson and Leflar said his deliberate and imaginative anti-aesthetic results in images are profound, and ultimately beautiful in their complexity and depth.
Rollins will be present at the opening and will give a talk at the UofA Department of Fine Arts during his stay. The party to celebrate his installation at the Bottle Rocket Gallery will begin on Sept. 20 at 7 p.m., and all are welcome to attend.
“We want people to know when they hear about these parties, they are invited,” Leflar said.
The two plan on raising funds for the traveling artists through Kickstarter since many of the young artists they’re bringing are coming out of the normal art circuit to bring their work to the NWA public. Through the help of their kickstarter program (kck.st/1fMLznV) they hope to provide each invited artist with a travel and installation stipend, as well as a chance to sell their pieces.With this knowledge, Wilson and Leflar said the artists they’ve contacted are extremely excited to visit.
“A lot of young artists are moving from city to city. We’re not quite on that path, so it seemed to us like it would be a good idea to help them out to get here. It’s made people really happy to be able to come,” Leflar said.
Future exhibits will include a Russian-born artist whose family suffered during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster focusing on nuclear power, and an African-American artist who focuses on race-related topics and issues.
To learn more about Bottle Rocket Gallery, to keep informed on their upcoming exhibits and to contact them, visit their Facebook at www.facebook.com/bottlerocketartgallery or contact Wilson and Leflar at firstname.lastname@example.org.