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Exhibit uses obsessive compulsive behavior as theme

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  • Exhibit uses obsessive compulsive behavior as theme

    Wilkes Barre Times-Leader, PA
    May 30 2004

    Exhibit uses obsessive compulsive behavior as theme

    Art 'Monk' might like


    Associated Press Writer

    BOSTON - A Boston artist has dedicated a museum exhibit to the type
    of behavior that causes some to separate their M&Ms into colors, pop
    bubble wrap until there is no more plastic to crush and focus all
    their attention on the most minute detail out of pure obsession.

    The exhibit at the Boston Center for the Arts is called "OCD," as in
    obsessive compulsive disorder. Curator Matthew Nash said it's not
    about an illness but how the creative process can be driven by a
    series of obsessions and compulsions.

    "You should see my studio," said Nash, who has shown his art in
    Boston, Chicago, New York and Italy.

    He is one of the people who separates his Skittles, M&Ms and Reese's
    Pieces into separate containers for each color. He used the latter
    two sugary goods to create his art for the "OCD" exhibit, which lasts
    through May 9 and showcases artists from Pennsylvania, New York and

    Using the Halloween-like colors in the candies, Nash made a grid that
    forms the images of soldiers, planes and other war-related pictures.

    "The obsession of this is having bins and bins of M&Ms and hoping
    when you're done it looks like something," Nash said.

    Nancy Havlick has bins with objects separated by color, but they're
    filled with sugar eggs. In an attempt to fuse her multicultural roots
    - English and Armenian - with her American upbringing, she decided to
    start her own tradition.

    With the sugar eggs, Havlick creates "rugs." Make no mistake, they
    aren't to walk on.

    The eggs are colored with a mixture of spices and foods often used in
    Armenia, including mahleb, sumac, almonds, apricots, paprika and
    rosebuds. She organizes them in decorative patterns on the floor.

    "I'm deciding my own tradition. Rather than looking backwards, I'm
    forging ahead," Havlick said, laying one of the eggs in its position.

    Havlick said she didn't recognize her obsession with making sugar
    eggs until she realized she has been doing it for a decade. But she
    also has realized another fixation: carving out an identity from her
    multiethnic past.

    In her parents' generation, Havlick said, it was much more common to
    assimilate to the American culture rather than celebrate differences.
    "My mother wasn't cooking Armenian food. We were having hot dogs and
    hamburgers," she said.

    The sugar eggs have become her own way of bridging the past to the
    future and a way "to control the chaotic feelings" of life, she said.

    Many of the exhibitors wanted their art to express something about
    both the creation process and the result.

    New York artist Jason Dean wanted to conquer bubble wrap after
    working for an animation company where he did a lot of packing. So he
    decided to make it an art project and see how much time it would take
    for him to pop the largest roll of bubble wrap he could find: 110
    feet by 4 feet. It took about six hours.

    That roll and other smaller ones are mounted on a wall of the exhibit
    like paper towels above a kitchen sink. There is also a video that
    features Dean's "popping spree."

    "I kept thinking that they were a lot louder," he said. "It just
    sounded like fireworks, and I kept thinking that someone is going to
    question this odd sound."

    Joseph Trupia, another New York artist, used office supplies to make
    drawings called "What I can do in 40 hours" and "What I can do in 8

    Another work in "OCD" shows 600 photographs of rear ends.

    "It was kind of a silly thing to do at first, and it became a
    document of the process of looking," said Boston artist Luke Walker
    of his gluteus photography.

    Norfolk, Va., artist Jennifer Schmidt became fascinated with the
    repetition of filling in ovals on test score sheets.

    "The idea of the artwork showing evidence of repeated activity is
    something we see in a lot of different forms," said Martha Buskirk, a
    fellow at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in
    Williamstown, Mass., and author of "The Contingent Object of
    Contemporary Art."

    The clinical disorder is even more consuming, said Diane Davey, a
    registered nurse and program director of the OCD Institute at McLean
    Hospital in Belmont.

    "Obsessive compulsive disorder is really defined as someone who has
    unwanted or disturbing intrusive thoughts and who engages in a set of
    behaviors that are meant to sort of neutralize the thought and help
    them to feel less anxious," Davey said.

    Davey said an exhibit like "OCD" might help someone to question his
    or her own behavior and seek help if necessary.


    Boston artist Nancy Havlick installs her artwork, 'Sugar Egg Rug,' at
    the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston in March as part of the
    exhibit 'OCD,' as in obsessive compulsive disorder. The exhibit runs
    through May 9.

    Boston artist Matthew Nash stands in front of his artwork 'Children's
    War' at the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston.