Reflections on the collaborative installation Solar-Powered Spacesuit

Artists Matthew Abercrombie “Dstryr,” Mark “Cent” Ferreira, Christy Frazier, Dustin Harewood, John O’Brian and Shaun Thurston present an installation


Solar-Powered Spacesuit is the collaborative effort of the Blessyourheartcrew (BYHC), a collective that includes a combination of fine artists, public artists, street artists, graphic designers and an arts educator. The exhibition opened on Sept. 19 and is on display in Kent Campus Gallery at Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ). Contributing artists include Matthew Abercrombie “Dstryr,” Mark “Cent” Ferreira, Christy Frazier, Dustin Harewood, John O’Brian and Shaun Thurston.

BYHC prepared for the exhibit in the Phoenix Art District, a series of warehouse buildings owned by Frazier in the industrial section of Springfield. Materials were reclaimed from the three-building campus and used to form many of the works on display. Natural materials found outside were also used in the creation of several of the pieces. This use of repurposed and natural materials illustrates the artists’ connection to Phoenix Art District and the influence life in Northeast Florida has on their work.

Some of the members in the BYHC cut their teeth as artists by working and developing their skills in the fringes of Jacksonville’s art scene. Present in their collective pieces are elements of mysticism as well as darker tones that portray their alter egos as quasi-anti-hero personalities. This is most present in the multi-panel work positioned as the centerpiece in the gallery.
Artists’ individual personalities shine through in their solo pieces. Thurston’s deep interest in earth science, the cosmos, and the duality of worldly life and the spiritual realm are present in his pieces, which incorporate organic forms and a color palette that can be found in nature. Thurston’s works can be contrasted to the works of Ferreira, who admits that as an artist, he's a product of the 1980s. The gridded patterns present in Ferreira’s work are reminiscent of 8-bit games for the Nintendo Entertainment System; 1984’s Marble Madness specifically comes to mind. Ferreira’s color palette includes a signature teal, which serves as a continuous thread throughout his body of work, and is representative of the ’80s, but also feels evocative of Jacksonville.

Like Ferreira’s pieces, Frazier’s contributions to the exhibition distinguish themselves from the analog world and organic materials. Her work combines vintage electronics, glass lenses and sparse graphics. The pieces created by Frazier are implicative of her eclectic yet maturely refined tastes and her inherent tendency to be a collector of things, specifically cool things.
In the works of Harewood and Dstryr balance is found, too. Harewood made use of a soft color palette and his contributions to the show are a continuation of his collage work and reef studies. Harewood’s Bajan roots continue to influence his work; the reefs are allegorical of climate change. Japanese culture is woven into his work as a result of his multicultural family and his extended visits to northern Japan to spend time with his wife’s kin. Dstryr put canvas and paper aside and relied on dark and distress salvaged wood as his surface of choice when creating. His pieces incorporate his trademark skulls. Often presented in a black-and-white format, Dstryr’s skulls for this show are more stylized and experimental.

While most of the pieces on exhibit are large in scale, a small minimalistic piece by O’Brian stands out. The piece, which consists of a wood box, formed gridded wire and paint, embodies both a sound wave and a topographic landscape, allowing it to serve as the perfect transition between the digital and analog worlds, making the piece a linchpin in the show.

Solar-Powered Spacesuit displays through Oct. 17 Kent Campus Gallery, Bldg. E, 3939 Roosevelt Blvd., Westside

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