Seattle-based artist group SuttonBeresCuller is coming to the EWU Art Department on Jan. 31 as part of the Visiting Artist Lecture Series coordinated by EWU, SFCC and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.
SuttonBeresCuller, who Seattle newspaper The Stranger called “Seattle’s most notorious art pranksters,” will be speaking about their art and their careers as professional artists. Their work, according to event fliers, engages audiences in novel and unconventional ways, often through humor and whimsical ideas.
“We were told from the very beginning, ‘Oh, collaborations never work; it’ll never last; enjoy it while you can,’” said Ben Beres, the ‘B’ in SBC. “Thirteen years later, here we are flying across to Eastern Washington to talk about it.”
John Sutton, Ben Beres, and Zac Culler formed SuttonBeresCuller after graduating from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle in 1999. The trio met in sculpting class and often helped one another with large-scale personal projects. According to Beres, it “just kind of snowballed from there.”
The group has presented and created work all over the country and maintains an active lecture schedule. Recent group projects include “Small Moons,” a collection of giant orbs built from donated, unwanted items; “Mini Mart City Project,” which aims to turn an abandoned gas station into a community center; and “PanOptos,” in which museum goers can zoom into paintings by operating a robotic crane.
The Visiting Artist Lecture Series, explained David Brum, special programs and volunteer services coordinator of the the MAC, is a consortium between EWU, SFCC and NW MAC, funded with help from the Sahlin Foundation.
Lectures series presentations are held in the fall, winter and spring every academic year. After deciding on a theme for the year, Eastern, SFCC and the MAC each pick one artist or group to include in the series.
This year’s theme is “A Question of Permanence.” According to the fliers posted around campus, this series “examines our impact on memory, community and society by asking, ‘What are we leaving behind?’”
SuttonBeresCuller calls attention to topics such as consumption, drive-through culture and urban sprawl, but, as Beres explained, the group does not intend to make overtly political comments.
“We’d rather shine a light on an issue or a topic instead of [commenting]. I don’t feel like we’re ever preaching or saying, ‘This is bad, this isn’t the way it should be,’” he said. “We’re all consumers.”
The performative nature of the group’s art and the scrappy, in-your-face way it is presented can cause confusion as much as joy.
“We [have] had people ask, … ‘What are you advertising? What am I supposed to buy?’” Beres said. “People were constantly amazed that there was this project, this art experience, that they [could] have and touch and hold and experience without being sold something.”
“How often do we get the chance to encounter artwork that is both personal and public, that imbues us with a local sense of awe, pride, nostalgia and shamefulness?” asked Chelsea Gifford of LEO Weekly
Despite the group’s success, Culler, Sutton and Beres remain humble.
“The bottom line is that we really love art, and we love making it, and we love people experiencing it, and we like having it out in the world,” said Beres. “We’re just excited to meet with a whole new group of people and share what we’ve done and inspire [people].”
SFCC Building 24, Room 110 on Jan. 30 at 11:30 a.m.
Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture Auditorium on Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m.
EWU Art Building Auditorium Room 140 on Jan. 31 at noon
Visiting Artist lectures are free and open to the public. Artists talk about their works and career, show pictures or multimedia work and allow time for questions at the end. The program will be the same for each location.