Artist Aidan Grey on Hoodoo and why co-op galleries are better for artists
Candles lit the back room of EDGE Gallery during Aidan Grey's most recent show there, and a scrolled message on the door read, "Hoodoo is not Voodoo." Ingredients for potions were sprawled, loose and in bottles, on a table at the side of the small space: wasps, black pepper, lavender, "War Water." Nine inch square resin tiles, brightly colored and entrapping pieces of organic material lined the walls.
The show is now gone, but Grey's not -- he's a member of EDGE, a non-profit artist co-op, and shows regularly there. Grey took some time to discuss his interest in folk magic (the tiles are abstract version of spells), the benefits of working at a co-op and studying at Harvard.
How did you get into the art scene?
Well, I grew up in California, and we moved to Aurora when I was about twelve or thirteen -- then I lived in Denver for about three years. I started date my current husband, who is the current president of EDGE gallery. I had always been interested in art, but it was beyond me, so my husband Mark inspired me and got me going. He knew where to go and how to go about it, and he also knew how to work it. He had connections and the know-how to enable me to really do something with my art.
I noticed, snooping around Facebook (lock your profiles, kids) that you went to Harvard. Pretty impressive. How was it?
It was good. I miss it. It was of course world-changing. I used to be the big fish in a small pond, but at Harvard I was a very, very small fish. I miss it and I loved that area, too. At Harvard, I studied Celtic language and literature. I don't have any formal art education unless you count that I was in a program when I was about ten, for gifted artists.
Tell me how you created your resin tiles
Generally, what I would do is pour some resin first, to be the back of the piece, move on to my mixed media stuff and then do another pour of resin. And because it's pretty noxious, I would generally do about four pieces at a time and then go to bed. Overnight does its thing and I don't have to smell it. Thee next day I go in and do my other pour.
I noticed your showing at EDGE had a Hoodoo theme -- do these tiles correspond with that theme?
Yes. One of the things I studied was African Diaspora traditions--so basically all of the religions that came out of African religion via the slave trade. That's why I started studying Hoodoo -- to me it was kind of a natural progression from my own beliefs. Each of the pieces in this show are spells, they're basically mojo bags gone abstract. There was one piece called "Wealthy Way" and it had all the ingredients to draw money. I used all the traditional colors and the resin works because basically a lot of magical traditions consider plastic to be neutral so it wouldn't interfere, theoretically, with all the roots, herbs and stones embedded in the plastic.
What do you mean by "traditional colors?
In Hoodoo, there are certain colors that are supposed to be good for certain things. Green is good for attracting money and healing. Pink is for love. Black is for banishing, or getting rid of something. So I tried to prioritize those colors in the piece. One piece was a fiery wall of protection,so of course I used red.
So, did you create these pieces to work as spells? Do you believe that they can have an effect?
Um, that was part of my intent yes. I do think there are a lot of things in Heaven and Earth -- more than we think. So, I did create the pieces with the intent that even if they are just pretty, they have the chance to work the way they are supposed to. I made a point of not putting in pieces that were breaking up so and so or vetting against a person. I tried to stay with pieces people would want in their home and stay away from the negative stuff.
How do you like EDGE?
I like it a lot. It's a co-op and I believe there are 22 full members and 11 associate members. Of course, as a whole everyone works together very well and everyone is interested in what everyone else does and it's a very supportive atmosphere. The coolest thing about EDGE is that it's the oldest co-op gallery in Denver, if not Colorado. It has a rich heritage, it's been around for a long time and it's well established. Also, it's a great place to be and because of all of the people who are the gallery, at and the location we get a good amount of traffic.
What do you like about belonging to a co-op?
Some galleries take 50 percent or more of your sales and that kind of disheartening for a new artist. We pay dues every month and that is how we pay rent. We sell a piece for $100 we get $100. And because its co-op, even the treasurer is a member and an artist and she knows. Your show is done and you usually get your money within a month and that's nice.
To view more of Grey's work, or to contact him about him, please visit www.aidangrey.com.