Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Only In London

As I chomp on a couple of pieces of  Wintermint-flavored Orbit chewing gum, I realize I am creating material for art.  Actually, I always thought the wad of chewed gum had some sculptural interest and potential, but I never imagined using it as a medium for painting!

Ben Wilson, outsider artist
London, England
Photograph by Andrew Testa for the New York Times

Well, what if you were walking around London and came across a man lying on his side on the sidewalk?  On closer inspection, you would find him using a blowtorch to soften sidewalk chewing gum, shape it, and apply color and a lacquer finish for protection.  You might slap yourself for never having thought of the idea yourself!  As it is, Ben Wilson, 47, has beat you to it, having already made thousands of chewing gum pictures around London, painting in any kind of weather.  His little pictures describe the immediate neighborhood, its inhabitants and personal events in their lives. He generally does not charge for his work. "Everything is transitory.  What's important is the creative process", he explains.  He feels the way that the paintings relate to the community are sufficiently satisfying.

Ben Wilson doing his part to beautify the sidewalks of London
Photograph by Andrew Testa for the New York Times

What can you do about the unsightliness and mess of chewing gum on the street?  And what about  focusing on  artwork rather than the constant barrage of advertisements?  These were some of the concerns that inspired Mr. Wilson.  He also does normal-size paintings that are for sale.

Tiny chewing gum painting by Ben Wilson
Photograph by Andrew Testa for the New York Times

So keep an eye out, everyone, for how you can help the community and make art, too, using something that is very likely right under your nose, in your mouth, or stuck under the table! You, too, could be an outsider artist, and you wouldn't necessarily have to work outside.

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